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Little Leaders named to state honor roll: Rita Perrilloux selected for special cohort

RESERVE — Early childhood development is critical to a healthy and successful life because 90 percent of brain development takes place before age 5, according to Louisiana State Superintendent John White.

Yet, the Louisiana Department of Education reports that early childhood sites typically score lower in performance categories when compared to other educational sites.

That isn’t the case for Little Leaders Learning Center in Reserve. Little Leaders was the only early childhood center in St. John the Baptist Parish to earn a spot on the State Honor Roll.

The State Honor Roll assesses only Type 3 schools, which receive state assistance. Of the 13 Type 3 early childhood programs in St. John, Little Leaders was the only one recognized in the “Birth-to-Three” category of the State Honor Roll, which applauds high quality instruction to the state’s youngest learners.

Other state honor roll categories include “Excellence” and “Top Gains.”

Pamelyn McKnight-Smith, interim early childhood director for St. John the Baptist Parish Schools, said Little Leaders displays a caring and safe learning environment that prepares children for success in the “big school” transition.

“It was a wonderful feeling to know that a site in St. John achieved this great accomplishment,” McKnight-Smith said. “This complements the efforts being done to provide families with access to high quality care and for acting as models for excellence and growth. To have this site gain this achievement highlights the great work being done in St. John Parish.”

Rita and Steven Perrilloux and their granddaughter, Nyla, receive a certificate of recognition from Pamelyn McKnight-Smith, interim early childhood director for St. John the Baptist Parish Schools.

She noted Little Leaders and other early education sites are held to the same standards as the elementary schools in formal assessments, observations, goal setting and following the Tier One curriculum.

Rita Perrilloux opened Little Leaders Learning Center in 1998 after searching for a daycare/preschool for her eight-month-old daughter. Her daughter is now 22 and the mother to a baby girl who also attends Little Leaders.

Little Leaders has a capacity to serve 72 students. The school currently serves 53 children, including students in the Baby Land, Toddler Town, Thriving 3-year-olds and Promising Preschoolers classes.

McKnight-Smith said Little Leaders strives to provide a high quality learning experience that promotes student achievement and school readiness, while teaching children to lead instead of follow.

Perrilloux said the school is unique because it focuses on developing the spirit, the soul and the body.

“If you want to be a leader in your community or the church, you need to start out when you are small,” Perrilloux said. “Teach children to lead, to make choices and decisions, so they become little leaders. That is putting them in a position where they can become strong world leaders.”

Perrilloux said the State Honor Roll designation means the Little Leaders team is making an impact in young lives.

Little Leaders Learning Center will receive a special badge on performance profiles in the Louisiana School and Center finder in recognition of the award. School leaders also received a state certificate to display on-site.

“It’s an honor and a privilege that we’ve been able to keep up with everything they have been rolling out. It’s a big job because there have been a lot of changes in early childhood education over the years,” Perrilloux said. “We’ve been brought under the School Board and the Board of Education. Before, it was like a privately owned business.”

Perrilloux strives to continue improving early education at the school. She was among 30 educators in six pilot parishes statewide recently selected by the Louisiana Department of Education to participate in the first cohort of the Louisiana Early Learners Academy.

The 10-month, executive-level program is exclusive to directors of high-rated early learning centers that operate on public funding. The program will help expand access to quality early childhood education by providing professional development to leaders in the field.

Perrilloux is the only representative from St. John Parish, and Amie Kruppel is representing St. Charles Parish in the cohort.

Training opportunities include interaction with national and state leaders. Perrilloux meets for a three-day session with the cohort every other month. She receives continuous support from online sessions and monthly visits from her coach. She said the program has already taught her to be more attentive to the needs and workloads of her staff members.

Perrilloux is currently engaged in a project focused on children with special needs.

“Therapists come in to provide services once a week for about 20 minutes with the individual child,” Perrilloux said. “Our staff needs to see and understand what they are doing with the children. We need the tools to be able to facilitate the rest of eight and a half hours the children are here.”


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