Formation of the Cooperative
In the early 1970’s, enrollment at Poe Elementary declined dramatically in response to the court-ordered integration of HISD schools. Poe parents approached then Superintendent George Garver with their concern about declining enrollment and loss of neighborhood children to private schools. He suggested a preschool program as a way of attracting community families to Poe.
The founding parents worked to establish a preschool program that would be comparable in its quality and scope with other preschools in the area. They were greatly aided by the support of the Principal and Parent-Teacher Organization of Poe Elementary School, the advice of the Beehive Parent-Child Center Project, and the assistance of the Laboratory Nursery School in the Department of Home Economics at the University of Houston.
Poe-Co opened its doors with a pilot program on February 4, 1974. The University of Houston’s Laboratory Nursery School staff provided a professional teacher for the pilot; they also assisted in setting up the physical facility at Poe Elementary and aided in establishing the general curriculum and goals of the program. HISD provided classroom space, utilities, and nominal maintenance. Parents coordinated the administrative details of the program and participated as parent helpers in the classroom. The program was successful, and for the 1974-1975 school year Poe-Co expanded to offer two class sessions daily.
Revitalization of Poe Elementary
Enrollment at Poe Elementary began to increase almost immediately. On numerous occasions the next HISD Superintendent, Billy Reagan, credited Poe-Co with being the magnet that turned Poe Elementary from a school that with rapidly declining enrollment and little parent participation into HISD’s model for community development and integration.
By the 1976-1977 school year crowding at Poe Elementary necessitated that the kindergarten classes use the “temporary” building that had housed the preschool. Poe-Co parents raised $5,000 to supplement HISD’s contribution of $15,000 to purchase the red building that housed the nursery school for the next nine years. During this period Poe-Co offered a class for 3 year olds. In 1977, Poe-Co began a summer camp program that has served many families who are not Poe-Co members, thereby familiarizing them with public school facilities.
Working with HISD
Poe-Co has made significant contributions to the community and the school district over the years. The great majority of Poe-Co children have gone on to Poe Elementary or other HISD schools such as the Vanguard program at River Oaks Elementary. Parents who become involved with their children’s education continue that involvement after the children finish pre-school. Former Poe-Co parents now fill many leadership roles in the PTO and parent volunteer programs at Poe Elementary, Lanier Middle School, and even Lamar High School.
Poe-Co has provided scholarships that have enabled many students to attend preschool whose families otherwise could not have afforded to give them that opportunity. Most of these have been non-English-speaking children who have been prepared to enter an English-speaking classroom after a year or two at Poe-Co. Poe-Co has been a model for high-quality preschool education at low cost.
A New Home at Poe
In 1985, an exciting new era in the history of Poe-Co began. A new wing was added to Poe Elementary, the temporary buildings, including the red Poe-Co building, were removed from the campus, and two rooms in the north wing of the school building were converted to house the nursery school. Poe-Co now offers morning classes for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. Optional extended day programs are also available. These changes have enabled Poe-Co to better meet the needs of its member families and have ensured the continued success of the nursery school.
In 1991, Poe-Co became the first Parent Cooperative preschool in the country to earn N.A.E.Y.C. accreditation. The school has renewed it’s accreditation successfully since then.
In November of 1992, Poe-Co was visited by Amy Driscoll, a leading early childhood education expert who highlighted Poe-Co in her book: Cases in Early Childhood Education, which was published in August 1994.
During the Spring 2000, Poe-Co and Poe Elementary parents, grandparents and alumni raised over $25,000 to completely redevelop the playground. This new playground with additional climbing structures, biking paths and music and theatrical areas was inspired by the teachers and built by parents.