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Our History

Incorporators
First Board of Directors
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1989-1994 Highlights
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2013-2014 Hightlights

2014-2015 Highlights
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Our History

It should surprise no one that an organization as innovative as the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood was born in Winnetka. Known for leadership in the education of its elementary and high school children, Winnetka has a long history of commitment to its youngest children, as well.

Winnetka's interest in early childhood goes way back. In 1929, Winnetka Public School Nursery opened its doors as one of the first nursery schools in the country. A few years later, the Winnetka Public Schools began its junior kindergarten program for four year olds. In the 1940's, Winnetka Community Nursery School provided day care for the children of mothers who went to work during World War II. In the early 1960's, Winnetka Public School Nursery began one of the nation's first mother-toddler programs that had an educational component. In the 1980's, Willow Wood Preschool was one of the first schools in the country to acheive NAEYC accreditation.

The seeds of the Alliance were sown in the late 1970's and early 1980's when there were fewer babies being born (the so-called "baby bust"). The three developmental nursery schools, the junior kindergarten programs and North Shore Country Day School were all affected by declining enrollments. In fact, the very existence of several of the programs was threatened. A few leaders of the early childhood community, including Don Monroe, superintendent of the Winnetka Public Schools, and Catherine Reichelderfer, a long-time board member at Winnetka Public School Nursery, called together a group of early childhood leaders in the community. They met a few times and discussed whether they could pool their resources during these hard times, in hopes of retaining at least some of these programs. As it happened, people began having babies again, enrollments increased, and none of the programs had to close down. The immediate crisis was over, so the need for collaboration was temporarily dropped.

Then, in 1988, Kenneth Montgomery, a philanthropist and friend of Catherine Reichelderfer, offered to donate $50,000 in Catherine's name to any cause or charity of her choosing. Catherine remembered those earlier discussions about an early childhood collaborative. She met with Don Monroe and together they decided that Mr. Montgomery's money would help make their dream of an early childhood alliance become a reality. Don and Catherine assembled a distinguished group of early childhood advocates, our "incorporators."

The incorporators met for several months, discussing the goals and structure of an early childhood alliance. They appointed the first board of directors and hired Penny Wasserman, Ph.D., of Wilmette as the Alliance's first director. The board began to meet in January, 1989. The first months were challenging. When Penny Wasserman announced her pregnancy in July, 1989, the board accepted her resignation. In August, 1989, Blakely Bundy, M.Ed., a teacher at Willow Wood Preschool and a longtime Winnetka resident, was hired as the new executive director.

In the fall of 1989, there were eight original member organizations of the Alliance. They included: Family Service of Winnetka-Northfield; Harkness House for Children: Willow Wood Preschool; Winnetka Clergy; Winnetka Community Nursery School; Winnetka Public Schools; Winnetka Public Schools PTA; and Winnetka Public School Nursery. The Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood had been successfully launched!