DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As Dallas school leaders look to expand its early childhood learning options, the recently reopened center at Harllee has become a model for the district – and a “welcome home” for its principal.
“If you go to a Pre-K classroom, you will see quality instruction,” says Principal Onjaleke Brow. “You will see students working in centers, you will see that interaction with the teacher that is so critical.”
If Brown appears to take learning personally, she does. She knows she’s filling big shoes on the campus just south of downtown, which is her mom’s.
“I literally stood and watched her as a principal and as leader in the district, lead this actual campus here and walk these halls,” recalls Brown with a smile. The fact she has been able to continue what she calls the “history of excellence” at Harllee has exceeded her wildest dreams – and the success of her charges is the cherry on top.
“Some of our four year olds are actually performing beyond the beginning of first grade,” says Brown, who credits her dedicated staff, focused curriculum, consistent support from the district’s early learning leaders.
So if it’s been a while since you visited a kindergarten class, prepare to put away those notions that all they do is play. Brown quickly plucks a couple of students from a Pre-K classroom who without pausing prove her point — they can read!
“It’s a myth that there isn’t quality instruction taking place,” insists Brown. “So when parents walk in, they’re like, ‘wait a minute: you’re not a part of Dallas ISD?’, and I’m like ‘Yes! we are Dallas ISD.'”
The campus, which sits across from the acclaimed Townview Magnet high school, had been closed. But, after push back from the community, the district reopened Harllee as an early learning center in 2015.
The campus hosts a half-day program for 3-year-olds and full day Pre-K and kindergarten programs. First grade classrooms will be added in the fall.
Brown is filled with pride at the program’s growth — and what she calls the data driven instruction that’s showing such success.
“They’re reading at four, and not only are they excelling academically, they are excelling socially and emotionally,” says Brown.
So yoga is also a part of the early learning curriculum in order to help youngsters learn to manage their emotions so they can be ready to learn.
“They know school is a great place,” says Brown. “These people love us and I’m here to learn.”