St. James Preschool ...

New St. James Preschool Director Linda Mendez with some of the students on the playground.

Linda Mendez has had an interesting and varied career over the past 20 years. Her current job has brought her to St. James Preschool where she has been the director since the end of last year.

Soon after taking over her new position, Mendez started implementing positive changes in the school, from hiring fully certified teachers to creating new programs and doing a little bit of remodeling. Although she is very busy, Mendez loves her job and is a tireless worker. She feels she is in the right place at the preschool. “This is a peaceful heaven. It’s like a field that needed to be planted and grown. I feel fully supported by the church and the board of trustees,” she said.

Mendez was born in Mexico and moved to Imperial County when she was 11 years old. She has been working since the age of 14 when she took over her father’s job when he passed away. She continued her education and studied child development and psychology. Like her mom, she also become a widow at a young age, and with two children to take care of, Mendez focused fully on her kids and her career. Mendez’s background includes working as a supervisor for child protective services, and probation and correction. She was a certified group home administrator and managed a county based shelter for an abused and neglected population, and was a program director for a refugee program.

“That was very intense. I was flying too much,” she said.

Now that Mendez is at St. James Preschool, she has focused all her efforts into improving the preschool. “We’ve hired fully certified teachers…teachers have ongoing continuing education to provide the best education. We’re participants of the Quality Preschool Initiative (QPI) Program in partnership with the Office of Education to implement California Learning Foundations,” she explained.

Through QPI, teachers are provided with ongoing education and iPads which has helped the school to implement ClassDojo, and parents can now view pictures and videos of the activities their children are involved in during the day.

“Parents can have ongoing information; especially with COVID, parents are not allowed to go into the classrooms,” explained Mendez.

In addition, the Office of Education is providing training for free and the school is looking to have a rating, something that was not done before.

Mendez feels the board is very supportive of her efforts, especially trustee Lorie McKinley. Thanks to the new changes, St. James Preschool now teaches academics that are aligned with the California Learning Foundations. That means that when children leave St. James, their academics learning is aligned with the public schools requirements.

Mendez has also sparked more changes with the implementation of uniforms for the children starting July 21 and also offering one hour of Spanish conversation. More changes include radio communication between the classrooms and office, and a new parent handbook has been created that also aligns with the requirement for accreditation. Emergency preparedness drills are also being done as required by the state.

“We’re trying to meet the requirements for the California licensing requirements,” said Mendez.

The preschool offers many safety measures including a personalized code for parents or relatives when dropping off and picking up their children. “Ensuring the safety and well being of the children is a priority,” she said.

Mendez admits that when she started making changes some parents were not happy, but they have come around once they see the results. “Now parents come and tell me ‘thank you for the changes you’ve made,’” she said.

Recently when the children had a one week’s vacation, a makeover was also done to the school with new paint in the classrooms and carpets were cleaned.

St. James Preschool enrolls children from 2 to 6 years of age. The new academic year starts on July 21, and the school is currently enrolling. Until the new year starts, the school is hosting summer camps. Children can be dropped off as early as 6:30 a.m. and the school offers three different schedules from part time to full time, not exceeding 10 hours. The school day ends at 5:30 p.m. Tours for prospective parents are currently done on Saturday mornings.

St. James is also a participant of Child Care Aware of America which is an agency that allows parents in the Armed Forces to apply for tuition assistance.

“I’m not afraid of work. I tell the teachers we’re here to serve the children and do the best we can. We come to work to make a difference,” she said.

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