Four stars for Suffolk Children’s Centers

Published 10:24 pm Friday, January 24, 2020

Two Children’s Center locations in Suffolk were celebrated last week for the high ratings they achieved in the Virginia Quality Rating.

The Suffolk Head Start Center and Suffolk Children’s Center have both achieved Level Four ratings, so Virginia Quality representatives visited these locations on Wednesday and Friday to celebrate their successes.

“We are so proud of the hard work and significant determination your staff and administration have put forth to achieve a Level Four rating with Virginia Quality,” Virginia Quality Eastern Region Coordinator Heather Kitsis told Suffolk Head Start Center staff at the Wednesday meeting. “We have seen this large-scale effort and the challenges that this process has required. That is why the progress you have made is even more commendable.”

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Virginia Quality representatives delivered a similar congratulatory message to the Suffolk Children’s Center on Friday, as well.

Virginia Quality is the state’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system for early learning programs, a project supported by a Virginia Department of Social Services grant, with funds made available to Virginia from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the Virginia Department of Social Services website, quality rating and improvement systems have been proven to improve the quality of child care and early learning programs.

There are five Virginia Quality levels that are earned based on basic health and safety for the children, the education and qualifications of the staff, the curriculum the program uses, the learning environment, and the daily interactions between teachers and children that “form the foundation for social and cognitive learning, significantly impacting school readiness,” according to

Growing Up at Obici is the only other Level Four-rated center in Suffolk, according to the website. None is rated Level Five as of yet.

“It’s a lot of hard work … before these ratings happen,” Kitsis said at the Suffolk Head Start Center on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of intensive work on environment, and interactions between staff and students — even the youngest students, the babies. There’s also emphasis on curriculum, to make sure that what is being taught is developmentally appropriate.”

When observations are held and the scores are given, the center’s staff has already worked “incredibly hard” to meet these high-quality standards, Kitsis said.

“For the administration, it means their leadership is engaged,” Kitsis said. “They know what’s going on in their program. They have good relationships with their teachers and teaching assistants and staff.

“It means for the staff here that they know what they’re doing is based on early childhood education,” Kitsis continued. “That they’re having appropriate standards. They’re having better classroom management, better environments, so that the children have the best experience altogether.”

These high ratings show parents that the teaching staff and leadership at both the Suffolk Head Start Center and Suffolk Children’s Center are dedicated to making sure that the children they serve have the best possible experience, Kitsis said.

“They’re being given the best possible chance for success in their life,” Kitsis said. “These providers are saying, ‘We’re going to pursue quality. We’re going to work really, really hard to be the best program we can be, and serve these children and parents the best they can be.’”

The Children’s Center is a nonprofit agency that provides children from birth up to 5 years old with early childhood education services. The agency has eight locations in Western Tidewater to serve its diverse community, including children with disabilities and developmental delays, according to

Tamie Rittenhouse, Head Start director for the Children’s Center, said that these Level Four Virginia Quality ratings validate the work of the teaching staff, as well as the administrative staff that guide them on their mission, which is to nurture and educate children and their families.

“They do the work for the mission, not the money, and this is recognizing their mission and their work, and it’s important,” Rittenhouse said.

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