When we began School for Amazing Kids®, we didn’t ask ourselves, “How do we do this?” We asked ourselves, “How do we do this right?” For the last three and a half decades, we’ve continued to use this question to shape the quality of the care we provide in our schools.
Over the last 36 years we’ve asked for help with this question from industry consultants and preschool owners across the nation, college professors; local kindergarten teachers; public and private school principals; our top tier staff; and our city, county, state and nation. We’ve studied, we’ve researched, and we’ve talked to you—the parents we serve. We’ve discovered that excellence in a preschool is made up of nine anchoring principles.
The 9 Fundamentals of an Excellent School
1. Uncompromised Child Safety and Security
In our school, safety and security isn’t an afterthought—it’s a priority. We’ve assembled the best technology and tools that can be implemented, extraordinary attention to detail, deep appreciation for the incredible importance of child safety and an ongoing commitment to the Japanese concept of “Kaizen”—gradual, never-ending improvement—in this critical area. Find out more about our safety and security practices.
2. Intentional Excellence In Child Development
“You wouldn’t tolerate an underperforming surgeon in an operating theatre, or an underperforming midwife at your child’s birth. Why is it that we tolerate underperforming teachers in the classroom?” –Michael Gove
Child development is complicated.
Teachers learn about it from massive textbooks, online articles, lengthy classroom sessions, scholarly professors, personal observation, their moms and dads, and maybe a thousand other places. All of those sources—and the pressures placed upon them from their pupils’ parents, peers, employers, and children themselves—shape a teacher’s expectations about development. And when they enter the world of preschool teaching, much of what they’ve learned gets turned on its head by our national obsession with “school readiness.”
Many parents, in their desire to facilitate “success” for their children, forget that the concept of child development is so much larger than simply getting ready for kindergarten. The foundations provided by an excellent preschool support mean much more than that first year of school.
To facilitate the unique experience each child requires to grow and develop fully, we’ve created the RFL Ready for Life™ Assessment. Developed using input from elementary school teachers and principals, the latest in brain development research, carefully documented research and Alabama’s Early Learning Guidelines, our proprietary RFL Assessment™ provides peace of mind for parents and teachers as children grow. This tool sets achievement benchmarks and goals that are age specific and designed to help children develop a genuine love for learning that will last far beyond kindergarten.
In addition to our RFL Assessments™, we’ve developed our own proprietary curriculum called Learn-at-Play™, which serves as the framework for helping our kids excel. We have also strategically chosen other respected tools to round out each child’s developmental experience. Click a link below to learn about them.
3. Superior Employee Retention
Employee turnover is how our industry generally refers to the problem of the giant revolving door through which staff enter and then exit employment. Industry “averages” on staff turnover are hard to get a handle on because there is no established, standardized industry tracking method. Many companies only track turnover of full-time staff. Others don’t begin tracking until the employee has been on staff for one year. Still others exclude students or temporary employees. All of this has the net effect of making the numbers look better than they really are. Despite this data manipulation, annual turnover in the childcare industry of 30% – 55% is considered by many to be normal.
We think your child deserves more stability. As a member of this industry, we have the same challenges as everyone else, but our retention rate is consistently better than 76%. And, we count every single person who leaves, part time or full time, college student or temporary. Retention is very important to us, so we track it each week for the preceding 52, so we’re always examining current, relevant numbers.
4. Spotless, Attractive, Well-Maintained Building & Grounds
Preschool facilities are the rule, not the exception in American life. Statistically, more than half of all mothers of children too young to care for themselves hold jobs outside the home. For them—indeed for millions of American families—day-care or preschool centers provide a necessary service. If both parents work, if a solo parent works, or if other family support systems are inadequate, child day care answers a critical need. Unfortunately, though, most day cares often provide something else entirely: an epicenter for common infectious diseases.
At Amazing Kids, we believe cleanliness is critical!
We take a number of non-negotiable precautions to stop infections, illnesses and pathogens in their tracks, before they harm your child or the community.
Preventive measures include:
- Hand washing. As simple as it may seem, hand washing is the single most preventive measure in the day-care center. Indeed, one study showed that outbreaks could be cut in half simply by requiring staff and children to wash their hands after diaper changes and bowel movements;
- Providing separate diaper-changing areas, preferably with disposable cover sheets and smooth, nonabsorbent, easily cleaned surfaces;
- Cleaning and disinfecting the diapering area after each use;
- Keeping younger children—especially those in diapers—separate from older children during the day;
- Keeping sick children at home;
- Segregating children who feel better but who may still be carriers;
- Providing staff education on preventive measures and regular follow-ups to be sure the measures are being taken.
Day-care staff members should wash their hands when they start work, before preparing or serving food, after diapering a child or wiping his nose or cleaning up messes, and after a trip to the bathroom.
For children, the routine is much the same, the CDC advises. Center staff should be sure that children’s hands are washed when they arrive, before they eat or drink, and after they use the toilet or have their diapers changed.
It’s also important that the diaper-changing area is located well away from food-serving areas and that a separate sink is used for preparing food and washing dishes.
In addition, we wash and sanitize toys daily and provide a child-safe antimicrobial hand sanitizer that we require parents use before they enter our secure area. We use an amazing product called PureGreen24®, an EPA registered, broad spectrum antimicrobial disinfectant and deodorizer with unique 24-hour residual effectiveness.
PureGreen24 has an EPA IV toxicity rating, the lowest rating assigned by the Federal EPA; it is non-flammable, non-corrosive, and odorless. PureGreen24 is strong enough to kill the most dangerous viruses in a hospital environment, Norovirus and MRSA, yet EPA registered for use on children’s toys at home.
5. Thoughtful Parent Service
We like Susan Friedman’s take on service. We invite you to hold us accountable to her “10 Commandments of Great Customer Service” on our quarterly “Parent Satisfaction Survey”… or better yet, hold us accountable every single day when you drop off or pick up!
- Know who is boss. You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible.
- Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions—thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. Do you know what three things are most important to your customer? Effective listening and undivided attention are particularly important on the show floor where there is a great danger of preoccupation—looking around to see to whom else we could be selling to.
- Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.
- Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance. On the show floor be sure that your body language conveys sincerity. Your words and actions should be congruent.
- Help customers understand your systems. Your organization may have the world’s best systems for getting things done, but if customers don’t understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry. Take time to explain how your systems work and how they simplify transactions. Be careful that your systems don’t reduce the human element of your organization.
- Appreciate the power of “Yes.” Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterwards. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.
- Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.
- Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following: What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere? What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy? What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?
- Get regular feedback. Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services. Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going. Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.
- Treat employees well. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.
6. Devoted Child Nurture
We’ve been caring for children for more than three decades. During this time we’ve learned that having great systems, organized classrooms, stellar curricula and intentional teaching and training for young minds only goes so far. It must be offered on the foundation of gifted teachers, who delight in creating nurturing connections with children so they can flourish and thrive in their learning environment. Read more about the scientific research promoting nurture in the classroom on our Nurture page.
7. Caring, Connected Community
“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We believe in community. Over the years, we’ve gotten pretty good at coming together in tough times. Recently, during “Snowmageddon” in February of 2013, we had dozens of children and adults stranded at our schools. We sang songs, cooked a great dinner, played games and slept pretty soundly overnight. Later the next day, as parents could finally get out and pick up kids, we heard several ask, “Do we have to go home?
You’ll love our “Parents Night Out”—an opportunity for you to get out and relax in the evening while the same, top-notch teachers who watch your children during the day care for your kids. We’ll be busy having fun, too, watching movies in our PJs, playing games and eating snacks and dinner. And… it’s free for our parents!
When fall festival rolls around, come out and eat hot dogs with us and play on the monster inflatables. We’ll do cake walks and carnival style games, we’ll pit the staff against the dads in volleyball, and we might even have a pie fight… all in the name of getting together and having fun.
Our Facebook Page is always buzzing with the latest news, pictures, recipes, stories and comments from our staff and parents.
8. Special Parent Perks
Whether you need help herding the kids to the car and getting them buckled up or want them dressed in their Sunday best for afternoon pictures, we’re here to serve. We’ve helped parents find jobs during the last three very tough years, taught classes on parenting and hosted birthday parties on the weekend. If we can find a way to do it—whatever “it” is—count us in!
9. High Value to Cost Ratio
No one likes spending money unnecessarily. At Amazing Kids, we work hard to keep costs of tuition down. We operate carefully, on low margins of profit so that you pay no more than what is required, but we won’t compromise on providing excellence to our children and a competitive wage for our teachers. Cheaper isn’t always less expensive. We pride ourselves on providing a very high value to cost ratio for our parents.