Repeat Offenders: Common Laws Broken in Early Childhood Education


Hi my name is Jessica Castleberry and this is Early Education Plantation, a blog community providing resources, connectivity, and dialogue for those interested and invested in early childhood education.

Today I am taking a different approach to the blog and providing a podcast in addition to the weekly article.  I can appreciate that it can be easier to listen to a podcast while you’re multitasking than to sit and read. For those who are reading, be prepared for a much more conversational tone to this article.

For the podcast, click here (–Repeat-Offenders.html?_=1484063797412 )

Or read on:

I want to delve into a couple of laws I’ve seen repeatedly broken, one: price fixing, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, and the other, overtime rules, from the Department of Labor.  After that I just want to touch on two of our child care services licensing laws: ratios, and then the importance of checking IDs.

Let’s start with price fixing.   I have received calls over the years from other directors in our area calling me to ask what our rates are.  You can’t do this guys!  The simple act of calling another center, identifying yourself as a director and asking me (another director) for our rates is breaking a Federal Trade Law and could be viewed as price fixing. Merriam Webster defines price fixing as the usually illegal act or practice of agreeing with business competitors to set prices at a level instead of allowing prices to be determined by competition.  I’m not saying that the directors calling me have been trying to start a child care crime syndicate, and think that we can all raise our rates to an insane level that parents can’t pay.  In our industry, it is illegal even to ask me, because it implies that a conversation might take place to agree to raise rates.  Due process for competition would be to do your research.  Look at competitor’s websites, read a handbook, or call if you have to, just don’t identify your position because it is breaking the law.  There’s also a great resource in the state of South Dakota, it’s called the Market Rate Survey sent out by the Department of Social Services every two years.  This is filled with information on what many centers charge for full time and part time tuition, what benefits and wage they offer employees, and it’s broken down by county.  Great information, all in one spot, and it’s totally legal to obtain. There is a new Market Rate Survey coming out in May of 2017, however I have included the link for the 2015 Survey at the end of the article.

Moving on to another big offender, overtime rules for staff.  This can become a problem for early childhood educators due to meeting teacher to student ratios, staff absences, trying to fill open positions, if the center doesn’t have limits on how long children can attend the program per day, or if there are families who are perpetually late for pick up.   The federal requirement to be eligible to be a salaried employee is a wage of at least $455 per week, the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed, and the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations. I’ve heard horror stories time and again of young ladies working ten hour days, five days a week because the center was short-handed, and not being reimbursed at an overtime rate.  Our workforce needs to be developed, but that also includes more information and education on their worker’s rights.  Hopefully you are aware of the hub-bub in the media regarding the Department of Labor’s attempt to change the requirements for overtime rules.  The rate for salaried workers was slated to rise in December of 2016 from $455 a week to $970 a week. That decision has been postponed by a preliminary injunction for now, however the Department of Labor is in the process of appealing and that preliminary injunction.  Directors and owners need to know we cannot ask our employees who are making less than $455 per week in a non-administrative position to work more than forty hours per week without overtime pay, and our employees need to know that too.

There are special challenges in this industry because of the types of licensing laws that are state mandated.  Anyone who has a stake in early childhood education should be aware of what these guidelines are. This extends beyond the directors, teachers, and support personnel.  Parents, grandparents and truly the community at large would benefit from being aware of state standards and how we measure up to the rest of the nation.  I’ve included a link below for anyone interested in perusing our South Dakota state guidelines, which if you’re not familiar, cover everything from structural requirements, to water temperature, to training for staff.  It is an interesting read I think too, for anyone who has ever heard from an in-home daycare that they don’t want to become registered because it is “too difficult,” or the rules are too stringent.  Rather than accepting this response, parents who are considering an unregistered versus a registered daycare should see the guidelines for themselves and make that judgement call.  It can also create dialogue with an unregistered provider as to the specific guidelines their in-home daycare doesn’t meet.

In early childhood education, there are certain requirements that facilities must be staffed to meet student to teacher ratios.  It is vitally important to meet these ratios to ensure the quality of experience for students and staff.  A center may struggle to meet these ratios for many of the same reasons mentioned with the potential for overtime. Staff absences, trying to fill an open position, lack of substitutes, or if the center doesn’t have limits on how long children can attend the program per day all contribute to a risk for being over-ratio.  In South Dakota, our student to teacher ratio varies by age.  For zero to two years old, it’s one teacher- five students.  For three to five years old, it’s one teacher- ten students.  For ages six to twelve, it is one teacher- fifteen students.  When a parent walks into a center and sees ten two year olds with one teacher, they should be alarmed.  When an assistant instructor is new to teaching and they are asked to run a circle time for twenty minutes with twenty children while their lead teacher makes a personal phone call, that is wrong.  All employees are supposed to read the state standards, but in many cases the standards aren’t reviewed with them, or the employee is afraid that they will lose their position if they say anything to a supervisor.

I heard a story the other day from someone who went to pick up her newly adopted grandchild from preschool for the first time. Her story described a large, well-reputed center in our area.  When she entered the classroom, she called out to her grandson who came to her.  The teachers greeted her.  When she turned to sign her grandson out, she realized her grandchild’s last name had not been legally changed yet and she couldn’t remember how to spell it.  It was ONLY at this moment that the instructors asked to see her ID and check it against their approved pick up list.  This is a huge error, one that is too frequent among child care staff.  The state mandates that IDs must be checked the first time an alternate pick up occurs, but regardless it is the best practice to help ensure that our students are taken safely from our care.

I think that it is vital for the progression of early childhood education in our state to accept that these problems are not, about “this center,” or “that center.”  These issues are not about “in-home,” versus “school district,” versus “centers.” These problems are within our workforce, they are within the lack of professionalism in our management, and at the very core of how we are operating our facilities as a community.  These problems are stemming from disinterest in the quality of care and education in our state from our community at large.  Early childhood education can’t be only a day-time place holder for our children which we give little or no thought to.  It is important to advocate for change, because of what we can become, and how we can achieve for our youngest community members.

Thank you for tuning in to Early Education Plantation and as always, remember to comment, connect, and cultivate change!

More information on licensing requirements:

More information on the 2015 Market Rate Survey:


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, and thank you for reading Early Education Plantation in 2016!

I am so excited for what we have coming up this year but I wanted to take a moment to reflect and share some of my favorite posts from the past year!

Thank you again for reading, and as always

Comment. Connect. Cultivate Change.

Exclusive Podcast Interview: Collene Fletcher


Check out my latest podcast interview with Collene Fletcher, c0-president of the Black Hills Association for the Education of Young Children, and lead infant teacher at the Child Development Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base.  Tune in to learn more about Collene, the Black Hills Association for the Education of Young Children, and about Collene’s experience as an early childhood educator.

To tune in now, click here

To RSVP for the next BHAEYC meeting and training please email BY FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30th!

If you have any questions or comments for Collene, you can leave them in the comment area or shoot her an email at the address listed above.  For more information about organizations mentioned during the podcast, visit the following links:

National Association for the Education of Young Children:

South Dakota Association for the Education of Young Children:

For more information and updates about the BHAEYC, be sure to like their Facebook page:

As always, feel free to post in the comment area or email me at

Comment. Connect. Cultivate Change.

6 Tips for Beating Winter Blues in Early Ed


The air temperature today in South Dakota is -18⁰ F.  The wind chill makes it feel closer to -30⁰ F.  It can be challenging to maintain a harmonious classroom when children are frozen into kid-sicles every time they step outside.  Travel becomes more stressful and dangerous, outdoor recess times may be eliminated completely, and some families may lack appropriate Winter clothing to keep their children safe.  Regardless of where you live, we are all at the mercy of poor weather, and need a game plan to adjust accordingly.  These six tips will help you beat Winter blues in the early childhood education classroom.

Plan physically active curriculum: It is recommended that children engage in active play for at least one hour each day.  This can become difficult when the weather won’t cooperate.  You can fit more exercise time into a child’s day in many ways.  Utilize active music time such as the work of Dr. Jean Feldman.  Dr. Jean uses music to teach important concepts, as well as get children up and moving.  “Chair Can-Can” from the album Let’s Get Moving is extremely active, teaches directional concepts, and can be completed from student’s chairs.

Stay flexible: Children thrive on routine but it is important to be aware of the children in your classroom.  Poor weather days may be a time to assess changing up the daily schedule rather than just pushing through mechanically.

Bring in visitors: If weather prevents your students from leaving the building for field trips, bring special visitors to your classroom.  This will be an exciting time to break up the monotony of having to stay in the same space.

Help provide clothing: Consider asking families for weather appropriate donations.  Remind families when their child is old enough to leave your program that you always accept donations and would be happy to take their hand-me-downs.  This way you can always be sure to have extra hats, coats, mittens, and even snow boots on hand for a child who might otherwise go without.  If your classroom has many at risk students, consider holding a coat drive. Second hand stores are also a good resource for inexpensive items to help your students.

Be prepared: It is a good idea to have a “rainy-day box” filled with activities for students to do.  Many of our rainy-day ideas come in the form of theatre games, a free resource that I have written which you can download here.

A breath of fresh air: When practical, get outside even for a little while.  Our guidelines state that students won’t be taken outside unless it is above 30⁰ Fahrenheit, but bundling up for a brisk walk around the playground has many health benefits.  Walking in the cold can increase your energy, help you sleep better, and give a little dose of vitamin D. It also literally gives you cleaner air to breathe, as ozone levels are lower in the Winter, and it gets students out of the buildings which might not be getting aired out due to cold temperatures. Additionally, breathing cold air will help fight infections. “Cells that fight infection in the body actually increase if you go out into the cold.” Rachel C. Vreeman, MD, co-author of Don’t Swallow Your Gum! Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health.

Hope is on the horizon here in South Dakota as the forecast for tomorrow shows a balmy 20⁰F.  The challenge then is to keep our students from ripping off coats and running onto the playground!

Worried About Your Little Worrier? A Guide to Manage Kid’s Anxiety & Stress


As a child, I was labelled a ‘worrywart.’
Children need assistance and support from their peers and authority figures to help them overcome unnecessary stress—and let them get back to being young!

My blog this week is located again at Fractus Learning as a guest writer.

Click here for  a resource guide for worried youths.

P.S. Teresa Ann Power- author of ABC Yoga for Kids left a comment on my blog at Fractus- how cool is that?

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Fabienne D.

A Dickens of a Dilemma


I had a different blog in mind for this week, but a talk I attended recently by a local city councilman gave me some inspiration today.

Most of us are familiar with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Whether your favorite version features Mickey, Bill Murray, Reginald Owen, the Muppets, or some other, the timeless theme remains the same. The moral to the story resonates with the human desire to embrace life and those around us before it’s too late.

Another theme in A Christmas Carol is to recognize the three phases of our lives as shaping who we are and who will become.

Whether you are an early childhood educator, a parent, or just a member of the community, I encourage you to reflect on your past, present, and future.

Past: I’ve had a big learning curve as a leader in Early Childhood Education.  Even in 2014, I did not consider myself to be a leader.  I thought of myself as a business owner, a boss, and a professional, but being a leader is different.  Once I started putting myself in the context of leader, and having that mindset guide every decision, is when I truly started having the biggest impact on students, staff, and my community.  Encouraging, mentoring, and collaborating with others is what makes the world a better place, and makes you a better person.

Present: I have a problem with ALWAYS focusing on tomorrow.  I fixate on future plans, longevity, and to do lists which are never “to-done.”  An important part of ensuring the future you want to bring to fruition is not forgetting to cherish all that this moment has to offer.  To be a leader in anything you have to connect with and value those around you.  I have to continue to plant seeds every day, while looking to the sky to plan for tomorrow.

Future: I mentioned I am future focused. This one is an issue for me- being too forward thinking.  Others may be paralyzed by their past.  Some may be so caught up in today that they don’t think about their own possibilities.  And there are more like me who concentrate so much on the future that they may not fully appreciate their past or experience their present.

I think our future is the most difficult reality for us to navigate, and we need to treat it with care.  We can’t fear the future because of past failures or mistakes.  We can’t forget the future because we are running the race of today, just to have twenty years go by before we know it. We must avoid focusing only on our future so we don’t neglect or distance ourselves from the very important people around us.

If A Christmas Carol taught us anything, it is that change can only come from within each of us.  We can be made aware of our lives, but ultimately it is our choice how we live.  Our past can embitter us or empower us.  Our present can energize us or exhaust us. Our future can inspire us or consume us.

Thank you as always for reading Early Education Plantation.

Comment. Connect. Cultivate Change.

7 Steps to More Gratitude


Originally published November 2015, Women’s Network of Rapid City Newsletter, Jessica Castleberry

I love the concept of gratitude.  In my most challenging times I used to write the word “gratitude” on my wrist for the constant reminder. In more progressive times I have a bracelet that has that powerful word inscribed on it.

I would love to have a more practical application of gratitude in my life, and here are the steps I am taking to make gratitude part of my attitude:
Change the “if and then.”

I am guilty of living with an “if and then” philosophy. If I can just accomplish ________, then I will be __________. If I can graduate from college, then I can feel fulfilled in a new career. If I can become financially stable then I won’t be as stressed out. If I can expand my business then I can take more time to enjoy my loved ones. Though not everyone suffers from “if and then,” everyone knows someone who does. If and then can be a valuable tool, driving success and determination. If and then can also undermine our happiness and overall well-being. It places our contentment and health in an ambiguous future place that we can’t access in the present. Life becomes a long to do list that is never completed, and we can lose ourselves along the way. I am an “if and then” person, and I have found that reaching the “then,” is never enough. To remedy this discontent, I have been trying a new take on if and then. If I feel grateful for everything I have right now, then I will feel happier NOW. If I can consistently unplug at 5:30 pm, then I will feel more rested, and have more connected quality time with my family, AND be more prepared to get back to work the next day. If I can prioritize my time, then I will feel more balanced and less overwhelmed. Altering if and then has to do with taking responsibility for your life right now, and not expecting to be happy once a magical “if and then” can be met.

Don’t suffer from heritage amnesia.

Don’t forget the ancestors who toiled and loved you so that your life would be better. My bad days are put into perspective when I think about my family escaping execution for their Jewish heritage in Russia by hiding in a hay wagon in 1918 to get to the docks to come to America. Suddenly extra paperwork and stressful deadlines don’t seem so bad.

Thank your nonbelievers.

Every single person you have encountered taught you something about yourself. Whether it was proving that you have what it takes, or taking criticism into account and improving, every person who said you couldn’t achieve either pushed you harder or helped you alter for a better course.

Be grateful for your mistakes.

Think back on errors that you made, and how much you learned from them. We hate to hear that we will learn from our mistakes as teens and young adults, but I can guarantee I am a much more practical human at 33 than I was at 23. I find comfort in thinking, “Imagine how smart I’ll be at 43!”

Remember love keeps lifting you higher.

Whether it is a manager, or a teacher, or a family member, think about who helped you be where you are today. One of the best ways we can invite more gratitude into our lives right now is to focus on helping others. You will be surprised by how much you receive when you focus on giving.

Time keeps ticking away.

Life is short. Too short to wait for happiness and success and fulfillment. Period.

Take time to celebrate.

When you accomplish a goal, don’t forget to take a little time to celebrate it along the way. Better yet, celebrate with those who helped you get there!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I am grateful for YOU taking the time to read these posts.  It has been a great year, and I can’t wait to see what December and the new year bring!

The Needs and Concerns of the Prescholar


First I would like to announce the winner of our giveaway! Across Linkedin, Facebook, and our site, Wendy Conrad has been selected!  Wendy will receive the book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. I am so glad that Wendy finds value in the blog as a conversational tool for her students!


I have traveled to Mexico before and always make it a point to visit a prescholar.

The prescholar I visit has changed every year depending upon various factors. In 2015 the prescholar I visited the year before had been destroyed by a hurricane, and the administrator told me it had put a tremendous strain on the other local facilities to try to help the displaced children.

Sometimes I am able to contact the administrators before I go, and other times I have hopped into a cab and said, “Take me to a preschool!”

Our preschool collects items over the year for me to deliver. We ask students what they would like for preschoolers from Mexico to know about them. Our care packages include a variety of items,  information about our area, and stuffed toys that represent local animals. We order extra bilingual books from Scholastic during the year and have even taken Indian fry bread mix for them to sample.

The streets of downtown Cabo San Lucas are busy and bright, with a light dusting of powdery dirt.  The tour companies are working hard, welcoming you from their kiosks and offering tours to El Arco or zip lines. The hosts and hostesses beckon for you to come to their restaurant, and everyone has “the best tacos” in town.

The palm trees are tall, the streets are alive with sound, and the air is a humid 89 degrees.

Further in are the blocks and blocks of storage unit shops, each metal door representing a “small business owner.” From  9:00 am to 9:30 pm these doors will be open with a kaleidoscope rainbow of colors. The shopkeepers  will be calling to tourists, “The price is right, senorita!” and “Almost free for you today!” I wonder where they live, if their families have one of the small haciendas further in, or how many of them live in shanties like chicken coops in the arroyos. I wonder if they had to ride the public bus to work, how long their trip was, and where their children are.

There are signs that read “No exploitacion infantils” which go into further detail to caution you from buying things from children. Purchasing items from children on the street perpetuates pulling children from school to help support the family. A little boy of about eight approaches me to sell me shells and I say in what I hope was a kind but firm way, “No gracias, you should be in school.”

Closer now to real life and further from the malls, marina, and tourist wonderlands, I am closer to Mexico. There are three prescholars clustered at an intersection, the fourth corner occupied by a hollowed out cement building surrounded by broken glass. Abandoned by all assumptions of the Americanos zipping by in taxis, but if you look closely, people live there.

The prescholar I choose is small and plain surrounded by a tall metal fence. I ring the bell and wait.

“Buenos Dias!”  Chirps a slight Mexican woman with a big smile. I hand her my note courtesy of Google translator explaining in Spanish that I am a preschool owner from South Dakota, and that if it is all right I would like to come inside and see their school and give them a few gifts.

She reads over my letter. The look on her face can only be described as someone who is fluent in Spanish trying to read Chinese. Thanks a lot Google. She smiles and leaves to get their administrator.

I am greeted next by Victoria. By the end of our conversation and the tour of the school, I know we are cut from the same cloth of dedication to early childhood education. While we might be “professionalism twins,” and “leadership sisters,” you can still tell us apart, as I am about twelve inches taller than her, and she is just a little tanner than me.

I could tell another story about their school. A large fenced in courtyard with AstroTurf was covered by green canopies to block out the Baja desert sun. All of the children were in white polo shirts with either shorts or skirts in navy blue. What impacted me most was the even split of male to female teachers, and of course the friendly, inquisitive children.

Victoria graciously received the gifts from our preschool. She then looked at me frankly and said, “Why us?” I said, “Because I knew fate would lead me where I was supposed to go.” Her eyes filled with tears and she replied, “Muchas gracias.”

While random acts of kindness in foreign countries are nice, you don’t have to travel abroad to help high risk communities with early childhood education. You can donate to organizations such  as the NAEYC. There is also plenty of need in our own communities.  Centers that offer extended hours, weekend care, infant care, and care for children with mild illnesses are huge needs not only in Rapid City, but South Dakota as well and across the Midwest. Lack of flexible, quality care and education affects children and their families.  In our community we have young parents who can’t complete general education diplomas, attend evening classes for advanced degrees, some aren’t even able to make it to work due to limited hours of child care availability.  You can also help by donating to centers in your community who have needs. An example of this is Dear One’s Daycare Center in Rapid City that serves families who are homeless.  They are always looking for donated items. Early childhood educators can also partner with organizations like Starting Strong Rapid City to help provide full day care for low income families.

What are the needs and concerns of the prescholar? They are not so different from our own. They want health and safety for their students. They want a community who understands and supports the importance of early childhood education. They want to help their student’s families by giving their children a fun place to play and learn when they have to be apart.

Gratitude Giveaway


It is November, and a time when those of us in the US turn to thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness!  To show my gratitude to YOU for reading Early Education Plantation,  we are doing another giveaway!

Like, comment, share, or follow to be entered to win the book The 21 Laws of Leadership by John C Maxwell.

John C. Maxwell offers lively stories about the foibles and successes of Lee Iacocca, Abraham Lincoln, Princess Diana, and Elizabeth Dole in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Readers can expect a well-crafted discussion that emphasizes the core attitudes and visions of leadership.

Don’t worry if you live outside of the area, we will be happy to ship it to you!

The winner will be announced in the blog post on 11/15!

Thanks for reading!