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Sandra L. Standish


Kalamazoo County Ready 4s

222 S. Westnedge Avenue
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49007
Sandra Standish has been a staunch and prolific child advocate in Kalamazoo County for over three decades. The former Superintendent of Comstock Public Schools now leads Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, an initiative that strives to make sure all young children in the county have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education. In just one year, Ready 4s has doubled its enrollment.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Kalamazoo County Ready 4s Executive Director Sandra Standish: I have been so fortunate, during my career, to have worked with many folks who possessed outstanding leadership qualities. Sometimes those individuals were not necessarily recognized leaders, but I gravitate to folks who have a passion for their work and are creative problem-solvers – people who are willing to move beyond comfortable complacency and really address concerns. 
Leaders have those qualities. Leaders also know the importance of building relationships, of listening instead of talking, of leading by example and of admitting their mistakes when it is necessary. I would love to say that I have mastered all of those qualities, but I’m a work in progress. Each day, I continue to learn from others. I keep learning what to do, and, even more importantly, what not to do.
What is your dream for kids?
I am now involved with early childhood education, and I believe strongly in working with children and their families prior to kindergarten enrollment, but previously, I spent 32 years working in the K-12 public school system. So, my dream is that every child receives enough support and guidance to be able to graduate from high school – and that they graduate with the academic and workplace skills that will prepare them for whatever path they choose to take. There’s nothing more rewarding
Collaborations go a long way toward eliminating the barriers that keep people from accessing our services.
than seeing the pride on the faces of parents, family members, and friends at a high school graduation as they watch their loved one receive a high school diploma. Every child should reach this important milestone.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
Kalamazoo County Ready 4s is built around a spirit of collaboration, so I know just how powerful it is when existing organizations with a common purpose join forces and work together to create a system.
The common purpose, for us, is to provide a very high quality pre-kindergarten education for every four-year-old who lives in Kalamazoo County.
We work together with Head Start of Kalamazoo County and the Great Start Readiness Program toward this common goal. Because of these partnerships, we can streamline our systems and leverage our resources to build a solid pre-kindergarden education system. Collaborations go a long way toward eliminating the barriers that keep people from accessing our services. For instance, families now only need to fill out one application to be considered for any of the three programs.
I think one big step toward improving the social sector environment would be if other sectors utilized this type of approach. I know it works.
How do you know you’re making progress?
Our enrollment continues to grow. In fact, it has doubled. During the 2011-2012 school year, 65 children went through Kalamazoo County Ready 4s. We had five private providers. We have 120 kids enrolled now, and we have added two public providers [elementary schools]. That’s progress.
We are privately funded, so we give educational presentations to corporations, civic groups, neighborhood associations, philanthropic groups, senior centers, and faith-based organizations, to name a few. We also connect with educators and administrators on the importance of early childhood education and the impact it makes in a child’s social-emotional development.
So, I am excited when parents call to say that they’ve heard good things about Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, and that they want to enroll their child in an early childhood education program. This means that parents and other community members are discussing the importance of pre-kindergarten education, and that they are reaching out to others and sharing this information. Word-of mouth recognition and praise is progress, too.
What are you most proud of?
I am very proud of Kalamazoo County Ready 4s. If not for the wisdom, leadership and generous support of the Kalamazoo community, it would not exist. Because of their early pre-pilot work designing Kalamazoo County Ready 4s and their generous financial contributions, Kalamazoo County Ready 4s has moved from a dream to a reality.  
I’m so encouraged that our providers -- and the leaders involved in Head Start of Kalamazoo County and the Great Start Readiness Program -- are willing to work together with us. In order to develop a seamless, barrier-free pre-kindergarten system, we absolutely must partner with organizations that provide similar services.
I am also very proud to live in a community that understands and values education.  We all are fortunate to live in a community where people truly care about helping all children reach their full potential.
What originally drew you to your current profession, and what advice do you have for young people who are interested in careers in the social sector?
Originally, like most folks who go into education, I wanted to work with children and, hopefully, to make a difference in their lives. I love being an educator and have always been proud of my profession. 
My advice for young people? I tell them, “Seek a position that you really care about. If you do that, your work will become not just a job, but a rewarding career.”   
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Program Profile


  • Kalamazoo County Ready 4s
    The Kalamazoo County Ready 4s mission is to provide fully accessible, high-quality pre-kindergarten education to every four-year-old in Kalamazoo County - so that every child can begin kindergarten ready to succeed.


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