André Amoor is one of the most traveled of any of the guests we’ve had on the show. In this episode, he tells us about his incredible teaching adventures overseas, including in war zones in the Middle East. His extensive experience running international schools and navigating cultural/political challenges has given him a strong foundation in helping shape extended learning opportunities for the Denver Public School District.
In our discussion, Andre talks about:
André Amoor is Senior Manager of Extended Learning & Community Schools for Denver Public Schools. He’s an incredible advocate for creating engaging learning experiences for thousands of ECE through high school students. In his role, he is instrumental in aligning the district’s objectives to his programming and ensuring measurable results. He oversees teams of high-performing HR, IT, Program Quality, Client Services, Community Partners and Strategic Initiatives managers. He also oversees the recruiting/retention initiatives for 400 employees district-wide.
He’s a trainer, mentor, culture and equity champion, and data-driven leader who has leveraged his international education background to effect meaningful, positive change across the district’s programs.
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Speaker 1 (00:08):
[inaudible] welcome to the childcare business podcast brought to you by ProCare solutions. This podcast is all about giving childcare, preschool, daycare, afterschool, and other early education professionals, a fun and upbeat way to learn about strategies and inspiration you can use to thrive. You'll hear from a variety of childcare thought leaders, including educators, owners, and industry experts on ways to innovate, to meet the needs of the children you serve from practical tips for managing operations, to uplifting stories of transformation and triumph. This podcast will be chalk full and insights. You can use to fully realize the potential of your childcare business. Let's jump in
Speaker 2 (00:53):
Everyone and welcome to the childcare business podcast. Uh, you know, again, if you've listened to our show before, uh, you know, my name is Ryan, Gwaltney really excited to have you with us today, and I'm excited to welcome our guests, Andre, uh, Moore, and I'm going to let him pronounce that name when we get started too, to make sure I did it justice, but, um, you know, excited to talk with Andre today, Andre is the senior manager of extended learning and community schools for the Denver public school system. Um, look, he's an incredible advocate for creating, engaging, learning experience for thousands of ECE through, uh, high school students, uh, in his role, he is instrumental in aligning the district's objectives to his programming and ensuring measurable results. Uh, you know, Andre oversees teams of high-performing human resource members, it program quality client services, uh, community partners, and even other strategic initiative managers.
Speaker 2 (01:53):
Um, you know, currently Andre oversees the recruiting and retention initiatives as well for over 400 employees. District-wide with DPS, um, you know, look, Andre's a trainer, he's a mentor, um, culture and equity champion. And he's a data-driven leader who has leveraged his international education background to effective, meaningful, positive change across the entire district. Um, you know, Andre welcome to the show. Good to have you to be here. And as Andrea more, uh, more. And so we were talking about this before we actually went on air, like, uh, Moore is the Spanish and Italian word for love, right? So my layman's Andre love in a way, but it also has another meaning to it. So there was, um, and we like to tie that in also from my last name. So not only does it mean love, they were called the Blackmores and they were a black civilization and they were out of Northern Africa.
Speaker 2 (02:58):
They, they contributed a lot to modern civil rights organizations. So that's another connection. So I got to ask about that then. Do you know like what, like timeframe, it sounds like you've done a little bit of research around your last name. So they're Northern Africa. They were called the Moore's. I may wear a black civilization. I want to say they were, um, Muslim based. And I would say the time period was around. I want to say the middle ages, if that makes any context there, I would have no idea. I put you on the spot. Like that's a tough one. Like you asked me anything that happened prior to today and it all runs together. So if you would've known the exact dates, that would have been impressed. That's actually like being able to, like, when I heard the last name, I knew immediately that, that, you know, his love in different languages.
Speaker 2 (03:47):
So we were talking to Mike before we even got on my last name is Gwaltney. So there's quite a difference between like one that's like amazing last name. And then I just spell mine. Like I was telling you before we came on the air, did you Andre just really quick to touch before we get into maybe a little bit of the meat and potatoes, so to speak of the episode around your role with DPS intrigued by your international background. Cause it sounds like that was, or is a big part of kind of your experience that's led you to where you are. Can you talk a little bit about like some of that international education where you've been, what that looked like? Yeah, most definitely. So I've been in America returned to America maybe five years ago in 2016, amazing year to America. Yeah. Uh, before that I was in Kurdistan Iraq for about a year and in Curtis, then I was developing programs for a lot of universities throughout the Curtis Sheri.
Speaker 2 (04:42):
And I was only there for a year because on one side of Curtis and I'm not sure if you're familiar with the demographics of the place, but on one side you had ISIS at a war. And on the other side you got churchy at war. So we're sitting in the middle of a war zone and that was pretty intense. So I had to get out of there. So I did that for about a year before that I was in China and I was in [inaudible] China and I wasn't in your, your Beijing's or your Shanghai's or your Guan Joe's. Those would be famous places that everyone goes through. I was in the middle of nowhere in non Chang channel, literally in the middle of China. And again, I was there for five years and I had my own schools, my own English education schools, and a group of colleagues.
Speaker 2 (05:26):
And I, we went out there and we started with maybe 30 students and over a span of four to five years, we had more than 2000 students. And we also had a teaching core more than 70 teachers. So that was a phenomenal growth and a lot of impact, a lot of communities throughout China, we were able to expand to other provinces as well. And in four or five years before that, I was in Indonesia and I see the widest, Joe Indonesia, and I was a trainer, a teacher trainer. So any teacher that will come into the country and they wanted to teach at our schools, which was pretty prominent in the region, they would have to go through me for training. And I did that for about two years before that I was in South Korea and I was in song down, uh, South Korea and there I was teaching English ESL on and before that I was single poor, also teaching English.
Speaker 2 (06:19):
And before that in Spain, Madrid, Spain for awhile. And before that home sweet home and Southern California. So over a span of something like 15 ish years, I was, uh, international, of course I will come home every now and then, and, and, uh, check in with family and friends and then I would leave, uh, to go back abroad. So yes, that's a little bit of, uh, my background. That's amazing. Was that so being from so Cal, was that like, in terms of having interest or passion for, you know, international travel or international education, was that something like, that was just like an errand in you, like through like people you met or, you know, reading books and, or was it like something your parents instilled in you? How did that love for international travel? I would say all of the above. So reading a lot of books being influenced by parents, but mainly due to my curiosity of ambiguous.
Speaker 2 (07:14):
Yeah. I love being confused. Right. It sounds weird, but I love being confused. So going to a country the first six months, whether you're in Spain or whether you're in China, those are the greatest months of my life. They were because I didn't know anything. I didn't know the people, I didn't know the culture. I didn't know the community, the infrastructure, the food, et cetera, and figuring all of that out. That process of understanding, gaining understanding is what used to drive you really excited. I was really excited about that. And so, um, I would go to a country six months in, okay. I figured it out a year in art time ago, let's go to another place and we would go all over again with that experience of being confused and not understanding anything. And I did that for 15 years. Something has changed though.
Speaker 2 (08:05):
I will tell you, I've been in Colorado for three years now and I don't have that urge anymore. I don't want to be confused anymore. I love that predictable days knowing, okay, this is what will happen tomorrow. Or this is what will happen next week or next year getting into a routine life. It sounds funny for me to say that right now. And that's where I am. So having a little bit of routine, a little bit of stability, you're like, I've done that. I've slept on the floor all over the world, not knowing what tomorrow looks like, but now I'm having a little bit of like waking up knowing like it's my own bed every night. I know what tomorrow is. Routine and schedule looks like. I hear that. Where did, where did you go to school? Like, uh, in Southern California. Did you, did you go to school there and then immediately launch out? I think you said maybe first international experience was Spain. If I heard that correct correctly. So I went to school at the university of California and Riverside and my major was linguistics.
Speaker 2 (09:05):
Yeah. The system of languages. And I said, well, let's go on a, apply this abroad. And I went to Spain and didn't look back for 15 years. Yeah. The rest is history. So studying, uh, linguistics. Do you also in all those different cultures, do you speak many of those languages? Yeah. So there's a difference when you go, when a lot of people travel, they go to the tourist here and the tourists there. If they speak English, where I go, I like to go to the Baxter, VVV, the countryside, the rural areas where they do not speak English at all. So if you want to eat, you have to speak their language. If you want to get from a to B, you have to speak their language. So yes, when I was in these countries, whether it was speaking Mandarin or Bahasa in Indonesia, Spanish, or a south Korean, yes, you definitely have to pick up those languages.
Speaker 2 (09:54):
And I did while I was there. And in terms of your experience, then at least if you're given a recommendation about anybody who wants to learn a foreign language, immersion is the best process to do that. Go find a place where they don't speak your native language and just force yourself to kind of learn and adapt as, as you kind of throw yourself into it, correct. If you want to learn a language, it needs to be around you every day. So it's not, Hey, let's go to school for a couple of hours and then learn Spanish or learn Mandarin. Now you have to vote and live the lane. So the language becomes a part of you. Language is a culture. And when you go to sleep, you hear the language. When you wake up, you hear the language. When you turn on the television, if you'd like to let this, you hear the language, when you're out and about in the city, you're seeing billboards, you're seeing taxi signs.
Speaker 2 (10:41):
You're seeing everything in that language. And something happens, uh, whether it's your ears or your brain, something clicks, and that language becomes a part. Youth want to learn a language. You definitely have to immerse yourself in an environment where that language is used on a daily basis. Yeah. I love that. And, and like you said, like the learning curve, I mean, I think it's about learning a language and culture, but really any discipline, like that process early on when it's brand new, the learning curve is the steepest because it's fresh, but it's also where you see the most gains. I think like you were saying earlier, you love that challenge of being in a place where it's all new. Like, I don't know anything about this. Um, even though it's challenging, there is like, you can gain a lot of forward progress every single day.
Speaker 2 (11:26):
Once you kind of, you know, whatever you, you know, you call it become an expert in something or master it, you get tiny marginal gains that are maybe a little bit harder to measure. But early on, like that process of like I learned, I doubled my vocabulary today in Spanish or whatever it is. That's a lot of fun. Absolutely. So going into any situation with your eyes wide open, no expectations and just going about and learning according. So that's what I have found from living in all of these different countries. You can never go anywhere and have expectations because you set yourself up for disappointment, 10 times out of 10. It's never how we imagine things to be never. And you go into it and you experience what you experienced. I have a friend who always says under there there's plans and then there's flow.
Speaker 2 (12:17):
We can all the plans in the world, but when it happens, life passes certain flows. So either you get on board or not, and that's what makes a that's what can make certain situations or not difficult. Yeah. Depending on your, your mindset and approach to him, what would you say, like in your experience, Andre, like in, in kind of spending time in all of those international places, is there anything that stands out in terms of like distinct differences to maybe how other countries and the international community at large goes about educating like youth versus what we do here in America? Like, is there any like, and maybe that's a too big of a question, not fair, but is there anything that stands out from your experience of like, what other countries do, whether it's do well or that you feel like isn't as effective as what we do here or vice versa?
Speaker 2 (13:03):
Well, that's not a bad question at all. That's actually a pretty good question. I would say in a lot of other countries around the world, their education system is incredibly integral. And what I mean by that is you have your school time and you have your after school assignment. They actually worked together here in America. I've found that there is a huge disconnect, and that's why I'm in the work that I'm doing right now with DPS to build that awareness tool for the out of school time environment, because it is really important. And I think it can enhance the, um, education of all students, because you have this time from eight to three, when you're in school and school does not end at that time, it needs to continue, uh, whether that's an afterschool programming, whether that's some sort of extracurricular activity, whether it's doing sports, whatever it may be, it needs to be continuous.
Speaker 2 (13:55):
And it all needs to, I would say, be incorporated and work together. They feed off of one another. And in other countries that is, um, a part of everyday life. And so it's not like, Hey, my skin, this kid goes to an afterschool program. No, all kids go to afterschool programs. For example, in China or in South Korea, it's just a part of their daily life. We look at their education system and say, wow, they studied for 12, 15 hours a day. That might be true. And they have some great results, but everything is tied together. So they're not in a formal environment, 12, 15, 18 hours a day. They, they balance it out with these other extracurricular activities. And I think in my experience here in America, we're working on that. And so we're trying to build up that awareness tool. We're trying to build up those resources for the after-school environment.
Speaker 2 (14:45):
We're trying to build up the reputation of after school and what not. We have found a lot of people consider it childcare. And when they consider a childcare, that's what we don't want, because then they begin to neglect it and not give them the resources and the respect of the reputation that it deserves. So that's a huge difference that I've noticed from my experience being in international education systems and being here at home and education systems. Yeah. Interesting. So I want to make, because that's a great segue to talk a little bit specifically about your role with DPS and kind of what, what that looks like on a day to day for you and how your programs operate, but like the play that back to like, so like in China, for example, you referenced, you know, the after-school programs, maybe that also includes before school, like any of what we might define as out of school time, it's an integral part of their lives.
Speaker 2 (15:35):
So that just means like, if I'm a student in China, I have my, you know, what we might define as typical classroom time during the day, but anything that I do afterschool, then if it's, you know, athletic activities, if it's the arts, whatever it might be, that's all viewed as ongoing learning. It's not separate, it's not optional. It's part of your, your life. That's kind of the way school works or you're constantly correct. Constantly learning, always learning something. And then you have parents who were very involved in those countries. So it's even more learning when you go home. It's like the learning never stops in these other countries. And I think that's a good thing. Maybe we consider that, oh, the kids will get burnt out well, in other countries they're doing it. And I think they're there, they're turning out quite fine. They're being affected by it.
Speaker 2 (16:26):
Do you know what the, the history of like before and afterschool programs out of school programs like in the U S is meaning like, I would think like going back to times where maybe less, less women were working or moms weren't working was the idea that kids were going to be home. And kind of the whole idea of afterschool programs started when we started to see, you know, both mom and dad joining the workforce. Is it, so is that a newer, like newer kind of like education philosophy for us in America than it is maybe in other countries? Is that a fair statement? I mean, I don't have stats and I don't have data to back it up, but I would say yes. So when the shift came in and mom and dad started going to work, they had to find something for the child to do.
Speaker 2 (17:09):
So yes, they did create a more child care opportunities. And so that's where that name came from and that stigma came and so they really didn't have structure to it. It wasn't, um, academically based, it was just, okay, we're watching your child. And that's what we're trying to get away from right now. So we're giving up a lot of our programs. We, uh, I would say we include a lot of social, emotional learning. We try to compensate the information that they're learning in these schools. We try to make it an environment that, that that's one safe and, and a lot of education. And it's not just, Hey, you come and play and run around a playground. And then I exude all of your energy. No, that's not what we're trying to do. We're trying to make it an extension of the school day. Was that the plan for you?
Speaker 2 (17:57):
Like when you came to Denver public schools, like I know you've been there for about three years now and, and perhaps you've kind of adjusted your role or made some changes over time, but initially when you came to DPS, was it with that vision in mind? Like we really want to like rethink how we view out-of-school time programs or has it evolved over time? Um, I would say that was the vision I had coming in. So having my experience from being abroad, I saw the opportunities of having this extended learning, and I saw that we were dropping the ball and, um, there's a lot of opportunity there. So I spent a lot of time building that awareness piece. We have a lot of community partners that we built relationships with and sort of, they can help us with these extracurricular activities. We have a lot of, um, ways to talk to the community so they can understand the impact of our before and afterschool programming.
Speaker 2 (18:49):
We even have, um, leadership within DPS that also could be a bit more aware of, uh, school programming and its impact. So building that awareness piece, building that tool of understanding of how this can be extended learning and how, uh, kids turn off, turn out to be better in the long run with these, um, extended learning opportunities. So that's amazing. I want to talk about like, even going back to the start for you when you, it sounds like you were in China before you came to DPS. So just quick question on that, were you, do you have roots in Colorado? Was it just a job opportunity that brought you here? Well, my China actually, I was in North Dakota before coming to, uh, another country to North Dakota. Absolutely. The different types of very extreme there as well. Um, I was actually leaving North Dakota to go to Poland.
Speaker 2 (19:44):
There was an opportunity that I was pursuing there and my family, they were, they they've had enough or they had enough of me going abroad. They wanted me to stay home. And so they said, well, uh, come to Colorado. I have an uncle here in Denver. And they were like, come to Colorado. There's a lot of opportunity out here. And there, there are things happening if you will. And I said, okay, I'll come and check it out. And so I came out and I, uh, discovered DPS and the rest is history. We are so talk about your programs then. So it may be even to start. Cause I I'd love to dive into a little bit about, you know, for our audience, like what are the actual, if I'm a parent in the Denver public school system and my child attends some afterschool programming, like what does that look like?
Speaker 2 (20:27):
I know you've talked a little bit about like the philosophy of the programming and what you guys are trying to do. Um, but, but talk to me a little bit about just the district in general, if you know this, like I'm assuming Denver public schools is one of the largest districts in the country, certainly in the state of Colorado, but do you know how many students you serve total number of some of those things as it relates to just giving us some context on the district? Absolutely. And yes, public schools is the largest school district in Colorado by far by far. And we cater to more than 90,000 students and we're pretty diverse as well. So our, if I'm throwing some numbers out there they're pretty accurate, but they could be off by one or two percentages. Um, I would say we're 50% Hispanic, which is phenomenal.
Speaker 2 (21:17):
We're almost 15% black. We have around 25, 20 6% white. And we have almost 5% of Asian and we have a lot of mixed cultures in there as well. So our district is incredibly diverse and we serve a lot of communities and we will love to serve more. Um, there are a lot of logistics involved in all of that, but we serve affluent communities. We serve underserved communities. We serve, um, urban communities, rural communities, which we're we're we're. We try to stretch our reach as far as possible. And we they're always challenging and always tend to just when you're dealing with, uh, diverse crowds and there are different approaches thing that may work in this community that may not work in another community where it's, we're learning as we go along and with our afterschool programming, um, we have found that some communities, um, they can afford afterschool programming and other communities can not being as they can, not that does not mean that they don't deserve to have a quality afterschool programming.
Speaker 2 (22:22):
We go above and beyond, and we look for ways to finance, um, or an afterschool programs for communities that can't, um, afford these, these services. So whether that's having grants come in, whether that's finding a donor, whatever it may be, we look forward to having that. And we set up shop, our sites are called discovery link. And currently we have 47 sites throughout the Denver Metro area. And again, those are in all kinds of communities and our system of education across all sites is more or less. And so we, like I mentioned earlier, we have this social emergent, social, emotional tool that we have at all of our sites. We have, um, the extension of, of, of, of school time. And so whether that's following up and ensuring that they're keeping up to par with all the other students are keeping up to date with their homework.
Speaker 2 (23:18):
We don't do tutoring services. I don't want to confuse it to very different, but we do, um, help them stay up to float with their current, uh, school work that they're doing in their normal day activities. So, uh, yeah, we have, uh, we have a lot of involvement and a lot of reach Denver and we're looking to expand. We're always looking to expand and that's where we are right now. When you talk about expansion in your district, do you, does expansion look like being at additional locations in schools, in the district or is it expanding the actual programs you offer or is it a little bit of both as you kind of think about how do we extend what we're doing, what does that look like for you for our programs that looks like access and opportunity to more communities we're always expanding internally as far as curriculum and programming.
Speaker 2 (24:06):
Yes, but our main focus is to reach as many communities as possible. So right now we have 47 sites. We would love to have a hundred. I don't know if we will be able to staff, but we would love to have that many sites throughout Denver Metro area. Because again, we want to provide access and opportunity for education and as many communities as possible. And there is a theme right now that a lot of the affluence, um, communities in Colorado or in Denver, they have these programs, they have these services and other communities that are not as represented. They do not have these opportunities and we call them learning prophets. And if you look at a map is very interesting. Now we color coded and you can see where the money is and you see all these education programs and you can see where the money is not in.
Speaker 2 (24:57):
There are holes in the gap. And we are trying to fill in as many holes and voids throughout the Denver Metro area as possible. W what are the challenges? So like with that, cause that is an interesting, like I was curious as you were talking about your programs and I think this is probably apical applicable all over the country is oftentimes that creates that education gap too. Right? It's like all of those systems in place where there is already money and it allows to invest in programs, you know, kids that are maybe in those communities have access to things that, you know, students and families in less affluent areas, um, don't have access to. Like, how do you guys specifically for DPS, how do you tackle that problem? Is it we're aware of it? Is it going back to your point about, we have to go out, is it all a funding issue or is it also, are there other constraints?
Speaker 2 (25:48):
Like our family's like harder to engage in these types of programs and if it is just funding, how do you go find money? What are you guys doing to, to cover that? Right. Um, I can't speak for all of those DPS DPS is it's a massive system, but I can speak for my department, the extended learning and community schools. The main issue is right now is the funding. So like I said, some communities can't afford it. Some communities can not, and that does not mean that they don't deserve it. So we go out to a different donor advance trying to find sponsors to donate. We have the DPS foundation who tries to secure bonds. We have government organ, the CDE, for example, they offer a certain of bonding channels that we try to have. So we're always, always in search of different funding opportunities for all of our sites.
Speaker 2 (26:40):
And is that because like in the fluent areas, parents are paying for the program out of pocket and then, and the district says, Hey, we can't, self-fund this, we just don't have the budget to go fund a program where families can't pay. So that's when you know, your role comes in or at least part of it where you say, Hey, we know there's a need there. There's not a budget within the district's budget to pay for it. We've got to go find funding because it's important. And we've got to find partners and grants and so forth. Is that right? There you go. So we have a grant based sites and you have fee based sites. Those sites, parents pay a fee for their child to come to these sort of grand basis all for it. So that's what we like to find it. I mean, if communities can pay for these services, Hey, okay, we're all for it.
Speaker 2 (27:26):
However many communities cannot. So we need to find ways to ensure they're getting the same access and opportunity to, to education. Is these other absolute means? Yeah. It's a, um, important topic. We do. We do hear this a lot. You know, we work a bit coast to coast all through the country, and I think that's a theme that many districts struggle with is like, how do we close that gap? The other thing, and you touched on this a couple of minutes ago, Andre, but it's a theme that I feel like on every episode we end up talking about to some level is the challenges around staffing because there's, you know, there's budgetary constraints that are challenging. Is that, is that an issue for you guys right now in your school system staffing in general? I think it's an issue across America, right? So in our industry, there are a huge obstacles right now with staffing.
Speaker 2 (28:19):
So, and RS is, yes, we are, um, seeking a lot of staff. A lot of our sites are understaffed and call it. COVID the aftermath of COVID or just the circumstance of the industry right now. But yes, we are always in need of, of staffing. Uh, more so right now, uh, post COVID. Are you guys, can you share anything specific, like in terms of strategies that you guys have, anything that you found to be effective through this at like recruiting staff? Cause I'm going to guess that because it's district run, so correct me if I'm wrong on this, that, you know, a lot of your pool of talent for the extended care programs is coming from staff of like the elementary schools, like, Hey, would you stay or is it different for you? Actually it's different. So we are very different. So we hire outside of that.
Speaker 2 (29:09):
We do have Paris, which are those individuals that you just spoke of, that they will stay on and they may come out and help out. But we also hire from within the community. So we love having parents come out. I mean, of course you have to have certain credentials and qualifications, but we love to reach out to parents because a lot of them have a lot of experience in, um, afterschool programming. We like to connect with other community partners, whether it's boys and girls club, where there was the YMCA weather, whatever it may be in may. They also have a pool of candidates who come out and work. And two main areas that we're trying to tap into right now are the universities in high school. So the universities, they have these programs where, um, teachers or potential teachers, future teachers are looking to get into the industry and they need work experience.
Speaker 2 (30:01):
They need, um, internship. We would love for, uh, them to come and work with us for a year or two and gain that experience and also help us out in the process. And we're also tapping high school seniors. And so there's a huge push right now across the country for apprenticeships. So some people who may not go the traditional four year route, they want to get hands-on apprenticeship when they're a senior in high school. And we would potentially love to bring them on and provide some training and get them qualified in and have them work for us as well. So we're trying to tap as many different angles as possible when it comes to filling these voids of staffing that everybody's having to be creative right now with it. And I don't know what that is either. Like why, like even in our industry, in technology like the, the job market and the competition for talent is, you know, maybe harder than we've ever seen it, you know, just in terms of like finding the right people to join teams.
Speaker 2 (30:59):
And it's an interesting challenge. I think a lot of companies are facing, but certainly in education, we hear it over and over from our customers. Are you like, I'm curious about that apprenticeship program. Like, so for high school seniors, is that an apprenticeship that would lead to like being able to actually be a teacher in public education or primarily the credentials around like some of the extended learning program you're talking about? I think it would be the extended learning programs, teaching credentials, that would be something all to get a different and they have their own path and we love, we love to work together, but yeah, we're, we're, we're totally different. I love, I love, uh, thinking outside the box, you know, the apprenticeship program, I think in our country has lost some of it, you know, like, um, I don't know if prestige, it's definitely not the right word, but it used to be a really big part of like, you know, people getting into the trades and apprenticeship.
Speaker 2 (31:50):
And I think, you know, with, you know, four year education is maybe it's looked down upon, but it's like, there's a ton of like, um, kids that would like to go that route talented kids. I love the idea of seeing education, starting to talk about that as well. Are you guys, what are you guys doing, coming out of? Um, you know, COVID, maybe you can speak to this. What did last year look like for you other than it was chaos and carnage, I'm sure. To a certain degree, but how did that look? How did you guys navigate it? And how's the new year starting off for you so far? Right. For us extended learning, we didn't stop. So a lot of people were able to work from home. We could not do that. We're setting up a lot of remote sites because kids need somewhere to go.
Speaker 2 (32:32):
They can't be in the house everyday, all day. Otherwise they'll go crazy to drive parents cruise as well. And so for during the fig time of COVID, we were having remote learning centers and they all follow COVID protocol. So there was spacing they were asked and children would come and they would set up in different areas and we'll continue, uh, services. Like we normally would do services. So we continue with the teaching, continue with the activities. We continue with the physical activity. That was the huge push of a lot of kids were not, um, getting that day to day physical activity that they were getting when they were in school. So we received some funding, believe it or not for actually having a programs that's focused on physical activity, which is fantastic for students. Yes. So that's one area. We did a lot of we, I think that's it.
Speaker 2 (33:32):
Yeah. That's, that's it for that. What, where your total numbers last year in terms of like participate participation levels, uh, were they down last year in terms of students in the programs? Both because of just all the changes to COVID, but also maybe some of the spacing restrictions, or did you guys reach a similar number of kids last year? Uh, they were down, they were down, they were down by a Latin right now. We're cranking back up and we're approaching our normal. No, believe it or not. Well yet throughout the, uh, prime time of COVID they were dead. Yeah. And have you have you guys then for this year? Cause I know most districts and schools are doing everything they can to get kids back to some type of a normal routine. Like what what's different this year, like compared to like start a school 2019 pre COVID, like we've learned things over the past year and a half.
Speaker 2 (34:25):
We've had to make some changes. Are there some distinct differences if we looked at your program today versus two years ago? Yeah. That's a good question, Ryan. Good question. A lot of people do not even remember what, um, I've seen a lot of repetition of things that we should have gotten away from going to get myself in trouble here. I wish they'd gotten away from, but we are going back down that, that, that same rabbit hole. So, ah, there are a few changes, of course. So following the protocols, as far as the capacity, as far as having mastered, imagine this imagine having three-year-olds four-year-olds five-year-olds wearing masks, um, our school that, that just doesn't work at all. Teachers, we have learned that they should get a lot of respect for what they had to endure throughout the, uh, COVID uh, time teachers have definitely become way more creative, not saying that they were not creative before, but they've taken it to another level because you have to find bigger and better ways to engage with students.
Speaker 2 (35:28):
Especially when you're having these virtual learning experiences. Now they're getting back into the classroom and that creativity has not gone down. It's it's still there and it's ramping up. That's a good thing. So it's the situation for us. COVID forced a lot of our teachers or school leaders to think outside of the box, to think of new ways to engage in and get students students involved. We don't want to lose our students. And it's up to the leaders, the teachers to understand how to build that. So I think we have done a wonderful job, keeping our kids engaged and interested in, in pursuing higher education. And even our graduation rates are, are pretty consistent, uh, across the board. So it's, uh, it was a learning opportunity and I think we have learned, there's always an opportunity to learn more and we will continue learn. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (36:22):
I heard some to your point from earlier, like nobody even remembers what 2019 look like. I had somebody said it stuck with me. It's like 20, 20 was the longest decade of my life. You know, it just felt like it went on forever. And it's hard to remember what it was like prior to that. Are you guys, Andre, is your program offered like across the district in terms of age groups? I know generally, at least when I think of like out of school time, it's like that elementary age group. But does that flow into like middle school ages for you guys? Or what's the, what's the, the age groups that you guys service over different levels? For example, high school, they typically have their own afterschool activities. So whether it's sports, whether it's choir or whatever it may be, but that's different from us. Uh, the middle school area, we're beginning to touch, we're beginning to touch because we have found some opportunity there, but typically we do focus on the ISTE up to the six or seventh grade area.
Speaker 2 (37:18):
And that's where we've had our niche for, since we've been in existence throughout, across the board. Yeah. Every kid in the district. I mean, it's a big district, like you said, and I can imagine with the diversity that you listed out, like that's a huge challenge. Like, I mean, what works in one pocket of the city or one area isn't going to work in another area. And so it's not just building out programs, but like we're having to build out specific unique programs to reach the families and kids in that community, which I'm sure is an ongoing part. You guys, you and your team have to work through. Huh? That was an ongoing, uh, I wouldn't say challenge, but opportunity to learn and, and, and be agile in our education. That was so yes, every community scratch that go deeper. Every school within community is distinct in its own way.
Speaker 2 (38:07):
So we have to find ways to, um, customize and accommodate these, these schools and these students at these schools. So, um, for us, we try to reflect the school environment. So we try to make it to where our employees reflect that environment. So therefore they're able to serve at community the best way as possible. And that's why we would do a lot of reaching out to parents and getting them involved in the NBA structure of our school. So it's, it's opportunity opportunities always, um, in this industry I'm trying to stay away from that word count. Yeah. I like how you reframed it. I think I'm going to try and use that with my team too. It's like, yeah. Where there is challenge, there's always opportunity. And so the way that you look at that and approach it, um, yeah, so same circumstances, but how you frame it makes a big difference for sure.
Speaker 2 (39:01):
Do you guys also, is it safe to assume it's never safe to assume so maybe I shouldn't, but like even across the district, you've got all the variables, all the different, you know, diversity that you deal with, the challenges with funding, but then you also like at each individual school, you work at the administrative staff that oversee that particular school. I would assume that's a really tight partnership and some are more productive than others in terms of like the programs that you guys are trying to roll out and how you serve the kids there. Yeah. That is a, uh, I would say is a key partnership that we take to establishing early on before we even set up shop at the school because believe it or not that partnership can determine the success or failure of, of program before and after school programs. So yes, we need buy-in at all levels.
Speaker 2 (39:51):
So whether it's the admin office, the front admin office, the assistant principals, the principals, the deans, we need as much support and buy-in as possible because, um, they have that connection to the community as well. And, and that's why I mentioned earlier building that awareness piece and building that reputation. So therefore the resources and the respect can come in, uh, thereafter. So yes, we do a lot of, um, community building, a lot of rapport building with school leaders and school admins because it makes our lives way more easier in any, at the end of the day, we're all in for students. Everything is about the students is to students, um, improving is it's benefiting the student. So yes, when we have these conversations with admin or school principals, we're always talking about the students, the students, the students, and, and, and that has been the glue for a lot of our partnerships.
Speaker 2 (40:43):
Yeah. And is that just from a strategic standpoint for you, like working with those administrative teams or like yeah. The administration at the schools, when you talk about building those relationships, is that you, and kind of your leadership team that are responsible for, like, we're going to go into the schools, we're going to share our vision, we're going to build tight relationships. Um, is that what you have found to work the best? Or do you have a model that you find actually, no, because we're not going to be there teaching and we're not going to be their care into that community. So it doesn't always work for leadership to go in and do that relationship, this school or the team that we will have for that area, they will go in and build that relationship because they are the ones that are going to be there everyday.
Speaker 2 (41:27):
Having those daily interactions with the principals and with the school administration. No, we do not, um, send leadership in there. However, if we do need to go onsite, but yes, we can go onsite and help out with the honing of those relationships. Yeah. I like that a lot, actually. That was not a, um, you know, for me, I could think about like, all right, you guys show up and run the program. You're our staff at, you know, whatever the elementary school is, we'll go interact with the administration. But like you said, day in and day out your team that's running the program at the site is the one is the team interacting with the administration. So that relationship letting not foster hiring the right people, going back to that is a real key, so they can build that relationship. And then everything comes back to what you said.
Speaker 2 (42:14):
It's all about the kids. Um, what about like, so for you, I, you know, I, I know we're running a little bit short on time here. I'm always curious. We got to talk a little bit on air or off-air before we started recording, but all the places you've been internationally then for you, Andre, you can go to one place like you, like you have the ultimate, like Andre, you can only go to one international place ever again. Is there one that stands out for you? Like no brainer or is that, well, I have to pull out a couple of variables in that question. Um, you said ever again, I would choose a place that I've never been. Yeah. That's okay. I would love to go to Easter island, which is a small little island off of, I would save the Argentinian coast and you can only get there by boat.
Speaker 2 (43:01):
And I don't know if you've seen those massive figureheads of heads, basically like stone has, and they're really huge. That's Easter arrived. And I would love to get there to get there because like, obviously you've heard stories, you've read about it. Is there something about the island itself? Is it just kind of the cultural history it's untouched? Got it. I would love to go and experience that before civilization goes there and improves it as they say so Easter, I haven't touched that. I think that would be, um, a great environment to experience. I would love to take my children and my family in there just so they can see what life is like without technology, without the such that we have here without being a concrete jungle is what we call it here. And then without that, and just, just to get that experience and exposure to what the world used to be like before it was modernized. How old are your kids? I just had a daughter four months ago. I only have one child. Congratulations. That's a lot of fun. You're like, you're in the biggest adventure of life right now. Every day I go home and there's something new that she's trying. So just last night she was able to roll over for the first time and it was a party. Oh my goodness.
Speaker 2 (44:23):
That's like, you're like, she's a genius. Like no four month olds typically do this. My daughter is a genius. She's a phenom. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. It's a different experience. Um, having children and it definitely puts a different perspective on life. And so, whereas before I would love to travel and go anywhere at the drop of a dive. Now, not so much, I need some stability for my children and my family. So that, that definitely has been a game changer for me. Yeah. Now it makes sense. Going back to the beginning of the conversation about why all of a sudden you're feeling like stability having a four month old and starting a family, uh, starts to do that for sure. What about last question? So I know Easter island is a place that if you could only choose one, you'd pick that because of the reasons you described.
Speaker 2 (45:09):
What about all the places you have been? So Spain, uh, Indonesia, China, if there's one international place that you have been to, that you would go visit, if you could only pick one. So one that stands out, no one that stands out, I would go to any and all of them tomorrow, if I really, really wanted to. So where there was Spain, Indonesia, South Korea, China, Singapore, um, courtesy and any, and everyone I would go to, they're all different. They have their experiences. And, um, my mind state right now is totally different. So I'm sure my experience will be different if I were to go back to any one of them. But all of the places I would, I would definitely encourage anyone to go and travel, go with eyes wide, open, don't have expectations. Um, don't have stereotypes. That's a huge theme that, that people have and they go, and they're often surprised by, oh, wow.
Speaker 2 (46:03):
That's not how it was. But in this book it said this no reality. And then going to these places very different. So I would go to any, all of those places if I really want it. Yeah. That's a great, that's a great answer. I can't think of a better way actually to end the episode then, you know, that kind of, uh, encouragement, like open eyes, hold things loosely. Like you said, maybe you're going to have some plans, but show up being willing to kind of get into the flow too. Cause it's gonna, it's gonna change as you get into it. Andre, it's been like huge pleasure, man. I know we've had a couple of reschedules, one on my side, one on your side. So I've been looking forward to the conversation and uh, I think it's gonna be super helpful for our audience. Well, thank you Ryan, for having me.
Speaker 2 (46:47):
I enjoyed the conversation as well. And yeah, we did have some, some mixing and matching, but it's okay. We were finally able to reach and we have had this conversation and we might be able to have some more conversations in the future. So keep that on the, on the radar and let's see what happens. Exactly. We both learned right before we went on air that even though we're doing this via zoom, our offices in downtown Denver are like a Stone's throw away. So maybe the next one we'll have you over to our office. We'll do it in person. Okay. That works for me. Right. All right. Sounds good. Have a good day. Thanks again. You too. Thank you.
Speaker 1 (47:21):
Thank you for listening to this episode of the childcare business podcast, to get more insights on ways to succeed in your childcare, make sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app. So you never miss an episode. And if you want even more childcare business tips, tricks and strategies, head over to our resource firstname.lastname@example.org until next time [inaudible].