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Southwestern’s children’s center receives national accreditation

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The Goldia and Robert Naylor Children’s Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has been accredited by the nation’s oldest and largest organization of early childhood educators and received three commendations from the group.
“This accreditation is the culmination of the dream of Jeroline Baker and Hazel Morris [former children’s center directors] who laid the groundwork for this achievement,” said Marcia McQuitty, faculty supervisor for the center, which is located on the Fort Worth, Texas, campus of the seminary.
“I’m thrilled to death,” said Baker, who retired in 1991 and now lives in Frankfurt, Ky.
Morris, associate professor of childhood education at Southwestern, said because the seminary has long provided quality child care, she never had any doubt that the seminary would be accredited. She added that she sees the accreditation “as a wonderful witness to our community.”
“Because accreditation affirms to us and to people outside the seminary the quality of our work here at Southwestern, accreditation is important to us,” said Southwestern’s vice president for academic administration, Scotty Gray. “We welcome the rigorous standards and criteria of the accrediting agencies. We are grateful to Mrs. Jean Thomas and Dr. Marcia McQuitty for their leadership in this process.”
In addition to accrediting the children’s center, the National Association for the Education of Young Children also commended the center for its administration, food services and indoor and outdoor facilities.
“The NAEYC is the premiere organization in the United States for upholding high-quality child care for children from birth through age 8,” McQuitty said.
Center director Jean Thomas said the entire staff is very excited.
“We are glad that we have been recognized for providing high-quality child care to the community and to the students,” Thomas said. She added Southwestern’s children’s center is the first children’s center at a Southern Baptist seminary to be accredited.
Prospective seminary students who plan to pursue a degree in childhood education will know that Southwestern offers not only quality classroom instruction but also a nationally recognized on-campus child-care center where they can gain experience and observe classroom instruction being applied, McQuitty said.
Prior to the children’s center’s opening in 1974, child care was held in various locations on campus, including Price and Barnard halls. Currently, the center ministers to 135 children, 43 percent coming from families outside the seminary.
In 1985, when NAEYC first began to accredit programs, Baker attended preliminary meetings and began to dream the dream of having the children’s center accredited.
“I had no doubt we could be accredited,” she said. Her confidence was founded on her nearly 30 years of experience with the children’s program at Southwestern that has often been a model program for other programs from Texas especially after the center was completed in 1974.
“People from all over the state would come to our center when they were getting ready to build,” Baker said.
Visitors included Texas governmental agencies, churches and universities who looked at not only the facilities but also the center’s programs, administration and policies, she said.
Baker says much of the credit for the quality of childhood education program should go to one of her professors, Ann Bradford.
“She was the one who instigated the full childhood education program at Southwestern,” Baker said. “I don’t know if we would be where we are today in childhood education without her dream and hard work.”
Baker remembers Bradford talking about a building for the children’s programs as early as 1956 when Baker was a student at Southwestern. She said that many of Bradford’s ideas were used in the children’s center.
The center applied for accreditation by the NAEYC’s National Academy of Early Childhood Programs and conducted a self-study based on the academy’s criteria for high-quality early childhood programs. A team from the academy visited the center July 28 to verify the results of the self-study.
The self-study and Thomas’ response to the site-visit team’s report were then reviewed by a three-member national commission of recognized experts in child care and early childhood education. The seminary was notified of the accreditation Nov. 30.
Health and safety, staff, physical environment, administration and developmentally appropriate teaching were all reviewed. Primary consideration was given to the relationships between child and teacher and teacher/staff and parents.
While the accreditation and the commendations are achievements, the process of providing quality child care at the standard expected by NAEYC is ongoing.
“We cannot rest. This year the association has already sent a list of things for us to work on,” said Thomas, adding the center will undergo annual reviews.
In three years, the center will go through the accreditation process again, which, according to McQuitty, will involve “a little more scrutiny” because more is expected from accredited programs.
To meet accreditation standards, the center has reduced child-teacher ratios, published teacher and parent handbooks, upgraded indoor and outdoor recreational equipment, and acquired multicultural toys, books and pictures. This is in addition to parent and teacher surveys, McQuitty said, completing reams of paperwork and compiling the information for the accreditation committee.
“The teachers and staff at the children’s center have worked extremely hard to make it possible to achieve this accreditation,” McQuitty said.
To honor Baker’s contribution to the childhood education program at Southwestern, a scholarship has been established for students who are pursuing a childhood education degree and who teach in the children’s center. Anyone interested in contributing to the scholarship fund should call Southwestern’s Institutional Advancement Office at (817) 923-1921, ext. 2350.
Founded in 1926, the NAEYC now has more than 100,000 members and a national network of more than 425 early childhood organizations. About 6,000 child-care centers, preschools, kindergartens and before- and after-school programs have received NAEYC accreditation.
D. Chad McConnell contributed to this story.

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