SEA Academy Reaches Full Sail
A head start for students and a step-up for staff
Twelve years ago, the now-owner of SEA Academy was looking for childcare and couldn’t find anything. After Hurricane Katrina, proximal childcare was essentially non-existent in the East. As more families and residents returned to home and work, the need for high quality early childhood care amplified.
Some of the best ideas come out of personal need. If something doesn’t exist, you might just have to make it. Better still, why not in your own backyard. Twelve years ago, this was the answer to one woman’s problem of finding quality childcare.
Beyond just childcare, the end result was a cornerstone of education where early childhood professionals who could not only assist the children, but also help the family transition to the preschool environment could employ best practices in nurturing and developing young minds.
Today, SEA Academy employs over 25 people and has been able to expand significantly over the past three years. The school, which draws most of its attendees through word of mouth, previously utilized a wait list for admissions. Now, the center has increased capacity to 130 children and has, at the time of press, 20 spots available for Early Head Start and pre-Kindergarten programs.
As a participant in the state-funded Louisiana Believes program, SEA Academy must meet specific standards. The school is listed as proficient in early childhood performance rating and proudly offers the same top-tier curriculum to youths enrolled free of charge through state aid for families below the line of poverty as those matriculated through private tuition.
Niki Dajon serves as Operations Manager, overseeing the business and the day-to-day operations, as well as, staff development. “Our major push is to provide support so that our teachers become better teachers.”
One major focus is encouraging Child Development Associate (CDA) certification among the staff. This is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education and is seen as a launching point for further career advancement.
For Niki Dajon, who started working at SEA Academy as an administrative assistant after undergrad, the center turned into something more than just a first job post-college. “I wanted to be a teacher, I had a passion for being in the classroom,” she said, “but this ended up to be he perfect blend of both worlds.”
Her responsibilities within the organization grew from their simple beginnings to tap into her interest in both business operations and education. “I became a certified trainer to facilitate continuing education for our teachers,” says Dajon, who also recently earned a master in business form Loyola University.
Dajon is responsible for teacher performance reviews designed to help the educators consistently improve. Both the students and the teachers live in the same community. Investing in their employees as well as their students reflects the big picture mentality of the leadership.
“We love the community here,” said Dajon. “We’ve had the fire department come out for the past few years with the truck to do a safety demonstration and let the kids explore the truck.” The center is a mixture of those paying a flat rate for student tuition and those sponsored by government programs. 95% of the students are hyper-local, but the facility is open to the Greater New Orleans Area.
SEA Academy is able to keep things local by working with their neighbors, Universal Printing, who provides flexible printing options for the growing organization.
Children learn through observing. The staff at SEA Academy serve as facilitators, providing the materials, equipment and experience to encourage children to learn on an emotional and physical level.
The leadership at SEA Academy puts just as much energy into supporting the teachers in their education and personal growth as youths in the program. Continuing education is mandatory for early childcare professionals, and SEA Academy endeavors to support its staff however possible, whether through continuing education, financial assistant or other. Even experienced parents can feel a lot of pressure around selecting the right preschool.
For enrollment information call 504-241-3909 or visit10080 Morrison Road
New Orleans, LA 70127 Business Hours:
Monday – Friday, 7 a.m-6p.m.