For Delorie Finch, the dream of opening her own preschool began in 1998, while sitting in the balcony of the Maranatha Church in Northeast Portland.
“The pastor said, ‘God has blessed many of you with talents, and many of you are sitting on those talents,’” Finch said. “And I heard God say to me, ‘Delorie, you need to start the school. Start the school and the people will come.’”
Twenty-four years later, she started the school, and thanks to funding from Preschool for All, a 2020 Multnomah County voter-supported ballot initiative, the students have come.
In its first year of implementation, Preschool for All has enrolled 677 students across the county, 10 of whom will attend Finch Academy, located in Maranatha Church, 4222 NE 12th Ave.
“They’ve been wonderful,” Finch said, referring to the Preschool for All counselors who’ve helped her. “They’re doing everything they possibly can to make sure we’re successful.”
Preschool for All has provided Finch Academy grant money to help cover infrastructure expenses, training and mentorship. The academy has also received tuition aid to cover 10 threeand four-year-olds.
Funded by a tax on high-income earners that Multnomah County started collecting in January 2021, Preschool for All makes full-time preschool free for families in the county.
Finch long dreamt of opening her own school and spent 27 years running the preschool program at Matt Dishman Community Center in Northeast Portland’s Eliot neighborhood. She retired in September of 2021. “When I started [at Dishman], it was all Black children,” she said. “By the time I retired it was all white except for one. This is a result of gentrification.”
Finch said she loved her experience at Dishman. But she still felt a yearning to lead something of her own making and fulfill a deep need she saw for children to attend preschool.
“It’s not fair for children to be left out just because their parents can’t pay,” Finch said. “Parents shouldn’t choose between paying the bills and rent and preschool, yet they do. These kids are so smart. They are like a sponge. We need to fill their little minds with as many good things as we can.”
For Preschool for All, Finch Academy is considered a “Pilot Site.” That means it’s one of the first contracted preschools in the program and, akin to user testing, will influence the overall shape of the county’s preschool program as its details are worked out.
Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson was a key leader of the 2020 Preschool for All campaign conducted by a coalition of parents, teachers, unions, preschool providers and community groups. Pederson said she feels proud of reaching this milestone in the Preschool for All journey, and is still active on the team.
“Families are dropping off their little ones at preschool and are free from the significant financial burden of childcare,” Vega Pederson said, adding: “This program was recognized as a potential national model, and we’re going to make sure it’s a success.”
Applications are currently open for existing or would-be preschool providers interested in joining for the 2023–24 school year. Cash assistance and free training are available. For more information, visit Multco.us/preschool/ providers.
And although Finch Academy’s Preschool for All funded slots are filled for this school year, she still has room for more students, and Finch said she will not turn away families. For more information, call Finch at 971.544.7291.
“We Play” After School
Concordia neighborhood leader and former CNews Advertising Representative Gina Levine’s We Play Portland, an after school childcare program for Faubion School students ages five through 10, has found a new home in St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 6700 NE 29th Ave., starting this month.
Levine has long provided before- and after-school care for friends and neighbors out of her house. But this year she has taken her business to the next level, finding a convenient location in the church’s Fellowship Hall next door to Faubion.
“I’ve been somewhat unofficially watching other people’s kids since my nine-year-old was a newborn,” Levine said. “But it was never a business. It’s really exciting to be taking the next step. I can help more families, and I see it as a longer-term career.”
Levine said she named her care program “We Play” because that’s what she wants to give the kids, a chance for unstructured time to just play and be themselves. “I don’t think kids get to play enough during the school year,” she said. “To me, play is building relationships, building community and figuring out who you are when you’re a kid.”
And for Faubion families, it’s a vital service for those parents who are working and can’t pick up their kids at 3:15 p.m. when school dismisses students, she said. We Play Portland is offering care Monday to Thursday for two hours after school.
One such parent is Christine Sullivan, a single mom and full-time teacher in Portland Public Schools. When her daughter started in-person classes at Faubion last school year, she was stressed and scrambled to find before- and afterschool care.
“I think the [school] district needs to do a better job of offering more options,” Sullivan said. “I’m so thankful for Gina. She provides such an amazing service for the community by watching all these kiddos.”
Levine said a few spots remain open in this year’s program, so contact her at WePlayPortland@gmail.com to enroll. If all goes well at Faubion, she hopes to open a Vernon School location for the 2023–24 school year.
Faubion Welcomes Staff
Faubion School welcomes two new assistant principals this fall: Cynthia Kieffer and Celina Garrido.
Kieffer was a middle school teacher in Beaverton before entering administration in Portland Public Schools. She lives in the Sabin neighborhood and said she already feels connected to the community.
Kieffer, who is Latina and speaks fluent Spanish, comes to Faubion from James John Elementary, a K–5 school. She requested to be moved to a school that served older children.
“I found I was missing that middle school component,” Kieffer said. “Grades six through eight are a discovery period. Kids are forming their hopes and dreams. To watch that identity grow and blossom is just so invigorating.
Leigh Shelton is the new lead ad representative for CNews. She loves raising her three children in Concordia and doing yoga nidra. For advertisement inquiries, contact Leigh at CNewsBusiness@ConcordiaPDX.org.