Early childhood education pioneers, Shirley Anderson and Marilyn Lobaczewski, retired from their positions as the executive director and grants manager, respectively, with Bristol Preschool, on Friday, Mar. 1, 2019.
“What made me feel as though it was time – we have set goals, we’ve reached our goals, and felt at this point in time, as an agency, new ideas needed to be brought forward to expand even more,” said Anderson.
“We couldn’t leave until it was done,” said Lobaczewski.
Lobaczewski said that in 1971, she entered the childcare business with the vision of a quality childcare program to provide to the Bristol community. She was able to secure funding for 30 subsidized slots to begin her program, which was housed in the Asbury Methodist Church in Forestville.
In the beginning, Lobaczewski explained, they were providing quality childcare as a service to lower-income families, with parents that worked 8 hour days in the service industry.
“We provided 11 and a half hours of childcare in quality classrooms with teachers. We had a curriculum, we served breakfast, lunch and snack,” said Lobaczewski, “and really began to make the connection with families. We look to encompass that whole family.”
And as word spread about the affordable and quality childcare being offered, Lobaczewski once again applied for state funding. Two years later, she was able to offer another 30 slots, which also filled quickly, and the program moved to the Bristol Baptist Church on School St. A year later, the state granted funding for an additional 30 slots, and Lobaczewski’s new goal was to get the program “out of church basements.”
Around the same time, in the mid to late 1990s, the school readiness legislation was enacted, which was about the same time that Anderson left the program, Headstart, to join Bristol Preschool.
“Looking at some of the daycare centers at that time, they really needed to look at quality, and that’s when they came with all the other things that came along with school readiness,” said Anderson.
Lobaczewski said the goal of school readiness was to begin the development of social, emotional, and academic skills in children so that they are ready for kindergarten. Early care and education, as the women explain, is giving children the opportunity to explore and learn through play.
The most recent mark Lobaczewski and Anderson will leave on the Bristol community was a project that officially began in 2015 after nearly a decade of dreaming and planning – a way to provide quality care for the infants and toddlers of Bristol.
It was through the help of the late state Rep. Betty Boukus, that Anderson and Lobaczewski were able to obtain $3.25 million to begin renovating the old Jennings School building. And though the project required much planning, time, and effort, and an additional $1.4 million, the doors opened in 2016.
Bristol Preschool now serves 201 students, including 40 infants and toddlers.
To honor the legacy of Anderson and Lobaczewski, donations can be made to the Bristol Preschool Childcare Center, or, to the Early Learning a PET Project fund at the Main Street Community Foundation.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.