By Diane Y. Welch
There is a lot of excitement building at the Village Church Preschool in Rancho Santa Fe. Students have been visiting businesses in the ranch singing, “Happy Birthday to our School” and passing out invitations for the biggest birthday celebration the school has yet seen.
On Sunday, Jan. 29, the preschool, formerly known as the Village Nursery School, turns 50 years old, and this golden anniversary is being marked with a free community birthday bash from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. that will take place in the courtyard of the Village Community Presbyterian Church.
The celebration will feature music by Life of the Party – a steel drum band – children’s games and activities, and catering provided by Surf Brothers. An official from the City of San Diego will present a proclamation in recognition of the preschool’s half century of educating, nurturing and inspiring the community’s young children, said Pamela Miller, preschool director.
It will be a trip down memory lane for prior teachers, administrators and alumni who are on the event invitation list. Longtime Ranch residents Sue Bartow, Carol Tibbets, Cathy Deal and Flo Bible are on that list. As are grandchildren of 1930s movie star Robert Young and the children of many notable celebrities, including Victoria Mature, the daughter of actor Victor Mature; the children of baseball pitcher Bruce Hurst; and the children of auto group owner Bob Baker.
Other alumni include the children of the following: professional baseball player Steve Finley; Wendy Walker (former senior executive producer of Larry King Live); Joe Walsh, guitarist with the Eagles; Tom Delonge, a member of Blink 182; and others. Photographs of alumni will be displayed along with a presentation of a photo slide show.
Ranch residents Liz and Tyler Seltzer were early attendees at the preschool. Now, of their three children, two have graduated and one is currently a preschool student, carrying on the generational tradition. Tyler Seltzer has recently been elected to the Rancho Santa Fe School District board.
The preschool, a program of the Village Community Presbyterian Church, was founded on Jan. 29, 1962 by a group of 12 churchmembers, mothers who had no daycare for their young children, said Donna Durckel, a parent of a current preschool student, and a member of the event committee. “That was the humble beginnings of this preschool.”
The founding director was Bella Coughlin, the second director was E.J. Heltzel, both deceased. It was the third director, Carol Doughty, who brought the preschool into the 21st century. “Because of her leadership and vision the school went from a small preschool serving maybe 50 families to a large preschool, with an outstanding reputation, which now serves over 200 families,” said Miller.
Back in the 1970s through the mid-1990s, about 80 percent of the students lived in the Ranch, while today about 20 percent of them live in the Ranch and about 80 percent come from the surrounding communities. “We now serve families from southern Carlsbad, Encinitas, Carmel Valley, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Santaluz and 4S Ranch,” said Miller. “The families who come here really know the quality that they get so they are willing to make that drive.”
Students range in age from 18 months, in the parent-toddler program, to between ages 2 and 5, in the preschool. The school has a varied program designed for the “whole” child, which emphasizes the development of a essential cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual foundation, a teaching philosophy that has not changed during the 50-year period.
There are a core of teachers which have served the school from a 28-32-year period, and a group that is in its 17th year. “We are strictly an enrichment program, we are not day care. This sets a dynamic in the classroom whereby the relationship between the student and the teacher is very positive. Teachers come and they just stay,” said Miller.
Not only is the school marking a major milestone, but it is looking ahead to June of this year when it will undergo a major remodel financed by Jere and Joyce Oren, who donated $350,000 to create an up-to-date environment. “Others are welcome to join Mr. and Mrs. Oren in this very important cause,” said Miller.
to learn more about the preschool and its programs or call (858) 756 2394. The Village Community Presbyterian Church and preschool are located at 6225 Paseo Delicias, in the village of Rancho Santa Fe.