New director Maria Markham has hands-on approach and envisions bright future
■ Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
After sitting down to interview with the newest Cornerstone Christian Preschool Director, Maria Markham, it was like being caught up in a windstorm. This woman is out to educate preschoolers like no one ever has. She arrived at Cornerstone from Escondido on Aug. 1 of this year with wings on her feet and ambition to spare.
“I came to work, not just occupy a desk,” said Ms. Markham. And work she does. Throughout our interview, she was also working on other tasks at hand.
“My previous job was officially known as the YMCA of San Diego County, a non-profit organization.When they ran short on funds, my particular school closed. I was offered a position at a school in Chula Vista. I lived in Murrieta, so that offer was out of the question. This opportunity arose, just up the road from home and I quickly accepted this position.”
Ms. Markham is in her 20th year as an educator and knows her business from A to Z. “I was previously with a fellowship church in Oceanside, California where I started in 1999. Our five children graduated from high school there. After 27 years of beach living my husband and I moved inland to Murrieta.”
Cornerstone is a new venture and challenge for this spirited educator. She is already up to date on the history of her new school. “Cornerstone Christian Preschool, formerly known as Baptist Christian Preschool, has been serving the San Jacinto Valley since 1965,” she explained.
Located at 40333 Acacia Avenue in Hemet, the current facility was erected in 2003 and has provided the school with more space and more elaborate accommodations for students and their families. Each of the five classrooms has a restroom and wash basin designed specifically to meet a child’s everyday needs. It features a playground for toddler programs, aged from 18 months through 2 and a half years and potty-trained, as well as for the rest of students aged two and a half to five. There is also a program specifically designed for a transition to kindergarten.
“When our 5 year-olds leave here they are well-prepared for the next level of their education,” Markham says. The school is licensed by the Department of Social Services in the State of California for a capacity of 108 children per day. Special attention is given to appropriate school behavior, helping to build a positive attitude toward learning and laying a strong foundation for academics needed for the elementary experience.
“Children must be exposed to the wonders and excitement of education,” she continues, “Our staff members are exceptionally qualified to introduce learning through appropriate development styles.”
Enrollment is below normal in 2018 to a student body of only 75. She says that is
unusual. “Last year, our 12 foot banner across Florida Avenue was missing. Usually that kind of public display brings in maybe 30 families. During the month of October it will be displayed again, which should compensate for the lack of full enrollment this year.”
Some of the changes she envisions cannot be immediately implemented. “I came on board August 1 and school began August 13. That is barely enough time to get oriented into the system.”
Ms. Markham is still ambitious and is planning an open house the first Saturday in November in order to become better acquainted with students’ parents and to meet parents of prospective new students.
“I’m looking at the curriculum and what’s going on in the classrooms. Remember they are preschool age, so we must begin with a basic ABC program and work with their ability to learn. I will be introducing programs to improve on what we already have, always looking forward to preparing our students for elementary school so that they will be ahead of those with no preschool training. A solid foundation for elementary school is important,” said the new director.
Ms. Markham continued by saying, “I have plans to present our program everywhere we can find an open door to explain what we have to offer working parents. We will be visiting veteran organizations, service clubs and other places where we find an open door to present our programs. I believe in promotions.” She plans to implement more outreaches than ever before.
Part of implementing these outreaches involved becoming a member of the Hemet Chamber of Commerce. “The first thing I did as Director was join the Chamber of Commerce. Not belonging has been a big mistake. Since joining we’ve been receiving invitations to numerous local events and even had a booth at the recent Business Expo held at the Hemet Valley Mall. That gave us tremendous exposure to the working community from which Preschools draw most of their students.”
There is well-established proof that preschools offer a better situation for the very young than baby-sitters due to all the services that are available. The fees are usually competitive with a babysitter, often better. The days of a five dollar an hour babysitter went out with six selections for a quarter on a jukebox.
Cornerstone currently has 14 employees; one receptionist, one assistant and twelve instructors. The school’s tuition rates are tailored to meet needs. Toddler rates are slightly higher because they have more needs. All rates are based on how many days a week a child attends and the director emphasizes that tuitions are based on a monthly, not weekly rate.
A new program includes those who need assistance financially. According to Markham, “We are now accepting families with childcare funding through Riverside County.”
If you are a parent with preschoolers you might want to look into Cornerstone Christian Preschool. One of the biggest hurdles for young, working parents is how to juggle work and child care.