Piedmont Progressive Preschool
Piedmont Progressive Preschool (PPP) began its 21st school year in September. For all of those years the school, which enrolls children ages 2 through 5 years, has been housed in the classrooms of the Piedmont UU church building. Director Michele Deese reported that classes are almost fully enrolled. In the week before school began, teachers worked on classrooms and parents helped with work on the playgrounds.
The educational environment at PPP is based on what is referred to in early education as developmentally appropriate practice. That is, much attention is paid to the social, emotional, physical and intellectual development of the children with an array of activities that are appropriate for their ages. Children do not spend time confined to desks or carrying out prescribed activities. Abundant time is provided for outside play and exploration.
Piedmont UU member Susan Burns and early childhood educator Mary Coppola started the school in 2001 after meeting at the highly respected Open Door School at the Unitarian Universalist Community of Charlotte where their own preschool children were enrolled. They dreamed of establishing a school comparable to Open Door located in the University area and Susan approached the Piedmont UU Church Board of Directors to ask about housing a school in our church building. The board and congregation agreed with the plan and PPP began. The school has grown over the years. PPP director Michele Deese has led the school for eleven years, after serving as a teacher for several years. Susan Burns and Mary Coppola moved on as their own children grew up, but the preschool still celebrates Founders’ Day every year to honor Susan and Mary.
Although it is not a parent cooperative school, PPP welcomes parent involvement and has an active board of directors. Some of the parent/teacher activities have been notable and beneficial for the Piedmont UU campus. Continuous improvements to the playground have taken place over the years to make it a very special place for children. The area on the east end of the campus near a creek has been improved for children activities and parents also cleared a path through the hilly area from that area all the way up to the rear of the sanctuary. During September work days, a parent weeded and cleaned the Zen garden in front of the sanctuary. In August the church board gave permission to the preschool to clear weeds, limbs, rogue plants, trash, etc. from an area opposite the sanctuary and playground and set up paths through the area for PPP families and Piedmont UU members as well to enjoy.
The preschool operates independently from the church and pays rent for the use of space.
Their values are compatible with those of our Unitarian Universalist church, and the church voted to designate the school as an affiliated organization. During the years of COVID, when it was not possible for our usual array of services and activities for several years, the preschool was able to maintain its presence and with many precautions, continue to operate and be a vital presence on the Piedmont UU campus.
At the September Board of Trustees meeting, the board approved a recommendation to thank the PPP parents and staff for their work in improving the Zen garden in front of the sanctuary as well as the playground.
Anne is secretary to the Piedmont UU BOT and is liaison from the church to the preschool.