26 Oct 2016
- Last Updated on 26 October 2016
- Written by Sarah Cybulski
Last year, as many of you know, we received a lot of feedback regarding the After-Four program from both word-of-mouth and from our After-Four parent survey. A lot of the constructive criticism we received was fair and well-deserved. The program didn’t run as well as we had hoped.
This year, we’ve tried to improve on the things we felt were critical in order to run a really solid After-Four program.
It All Starts with Teamwork
The first big step was to create an After-Four Sub-Committee where a cohort of After-Four parents and senior staff meet to discuss the program. We’ve met three times thus far and will meet again in November. We discuss areas to improve, areas of success, and areas where we can implement positive changes. We’ve felt that these meetings have been incredibly fruitful in providing us with both information regarding how parents feel about the program and how we can fix anything that needs improvement.
We’ve also been able to implement changes in After-Four because of our weekly coordinator meetings between Christy (Executive Director), Sarah R. (Program Director), myself (Sarah C.), Darcy (JK-SK Coordinator), Katherine (Gr. 1-3 Coordinator), and David (Gr. 4-6 Coordinator). During these meetings, we discuss our progress to date, programming, staffing, special events, comments from parents, and concerns we have. We then talk about the best way to solve any issues we are having. This team-based approach has helped us create a dedicated and supportive group that strives to run the best program we can.
What We’ve Done So Far
The following is a list of the major changes we’ve been implementing this year.
Throughout the year, as I’m sure many of you noticed, we struggled with having enough staff for the program. This year, we advertised positions earlier in the summer on our website, social media outlets, and Carleton University’s job portal. We also reached out to the high schools in the neighbourhood. From the applications we received, I conducted roughly 30 interviews in August/early September and hired the new, enthusiastic group of staff that we have. Hopefully you’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of them as I think they’re a wonderful group of young people.
The staff were then trained using our updated staff training manual, which contains all of our safety procedures, how to plan fun activities, and how to manage behaviours. Training has also been provided each month, where we talk about a variety of topics including planning activities, managing behaviours, and communicating appropriately. We’re currently in the process of booking some guest speakers to come in to run specialty workshops with the staff so they can learn even more.
The activities we provided for the children also needed improvement. Each month, we have staff collect their ideas and add them to a schedule. The coordinators (Darcy, Katherine, and David) go through each of these activities and provide feedback regarding the activities. I then go over the programming and add suggestions or new ideas.
We’ve tried to include some of the activities that parents suggested. For example, in the Gr. 4-6 group, some wanted more leadership or team-building activities. The Gr. 4-6 staff are now planning activities based on building leadership and team-building skills. The goal is to help children at that age learn a variety of new skills, especially since social development is so important during the pre-teen years. Another thing we’ve added this year is our new quiet rooms in the Gr. 1-3 and 4-6 programs where children can do their homework, read a book, or have some quiet time if they want it.
Procedures and safety protocols were also areas of concern. This year, we’ve made sure to train staff more thoroughly on our procedures and how we want to ensure children’s safety. We’ve improved our sign-in/sign-out documents and waivers, as well. The coordinators have been working very diligently to help mentor their staff to ensure that they are following through with OSCA’s safety procedures.
4. Part-time Spaces
During one of our After-Four Sub-Committee meetings, it was suggested that instead of shared spaces, we have limited three-day part-time spaces. We thought this was a great idea and were able to launch it in October. These spaces were meant to help parents who only needed care for a couple days of the week given that their children are enrolled in other extracurricular activities.
Finally, communication was less than consistent. Since taking over the program this year, I’ve tried to make sure parents are always in the loop with After-Four activities and changes with frequent emails and monthly newsletters. Further, I know most of you in the After-Four program, but not everyone yet. If you see me at Firehall, don’t be shy to introduce yourself (I love the Ottawa Senators, so you can always ask me about them). I strongly believe that getting to know more and more of you has helped me to establish better dialogue between Firehall and you as parents. I’m also always open for feedback (both positive and constructive) so don’t be afraid to contact me.
Where We Want to Go
Thus far, we’ve heard plenty of positive feedback based on these changes, but we are committed to making this vital program to Old Ottawa South the best it can be. We want to ensure that parents feel comfortable sending their children to us for care, and that we provide a safe and fun program where children and parents feel welcomed.
Preschool, Child, and Youth Program Coordinator