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Michael Poma


New Start Preservation Program

700 Park Avenue
Houghton, Michigan 49931
As executive director of the Baraga Houghton Keweenaw Child Development Board, Michael Poma works to see that children keep up with their peers in school. However, what keeps him awake at night is wishing he could make his services accessible and affordable to more people, especially needy children.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Baraga Houghton Keweenaw Child Development Board Executive Director Michael Poma: Being a leader means being innovative and decentralizing power to get the people around you motivated to meet goals and get excited about what we are doing. Their input counts; it impacts the program and kids’ lives.
What is your dream for kids?
That they’re prepared for school; that they’re able to compete with their peers to learn skills necessary for self-actualization.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
Instead of everyone having different goals for what they are doing with their grants, it would be better if the state could come up with a statewide plan to address social needs. Similarly, in this country, we don’t really know our foreign or domestic goals, what we’re doing as a nation to meet the goals.
How do you know you’re making progress?
We have an agency strategic plan with key performance indicators to measure outcomes. We report to our governing board our progress or lack of it and make the necessary changes to meet goals. We also report on and evaluate our assessment data for children and teachers. In Head Start and Early Head Start, we evaluate teachers and the environments they have created with an assessment called CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System). There are also a number of other assessments we use, such as the PQA (Program Quality Assurance) and literacy assessments such as the IGDI (Individual Growth and Development Indicators. For the preschoolers, we use the CORE (Child Observation Record) assessment, which is for our High Scope curriculum. We are developing assessments for our children in the Chinese and Arabic dual-language preschool programs.
What are you most proud of?
We’re one of the original 10 Centers of Excellence, nationwide for Head Start. The Office on Head Start is working with us to test and evaluate early childhood assessments. I’m also proud that we have deployed our Ameri-Corp volunteers in school and preschool classrooms to practice Response to Intervention (RTI) techniques to work one-on-one with children who test outside developmental benchmarks. We found that the children in RTI have made significant gains in development and in increased assessment scores. Intervention does work.
What keeps you awake at night?
What keeps me awake is ideas to implement, like wishing we had universal access to all our programs for all people. We’re trying to make programs affordable for all kids.
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