A 20-plus-year veteran of the department has been tapped to take the helm of JCPRD’s Children’s Services Department.
Jennifer Anderson of Olathe assumed the role of Children’s Services Manager on Nov. 3 in anticipation of the Dec. 13 retirement of longtime Children’s Services Manager Kim Chappelow Lee after 41 years with the agency.
“Jennifer brings 23 years of experience to this position and has a deep understanding of the significant impact our children’s services programs bring to the families in our community,” said Superintendent of Recreation Rhonda Pollard. “In addition to her service here at the district, she has worked at the state level as a Kansas Regional After School Ambassador, advocating the importance of Out of School Time programs. Also, she recently spoke on the national level at the 2019 National Recreation and Parks Association conference on the benefits of healthy snacks in our programs.”
“I hope to bring experience and an open mind with me, as well as sincere gratitude for everyone that makes this team successful,” Anderson said. “I would like to let the world know what an amazing group of people the children’s services team is. It’s an incredible group of people that not only work hard but are fun to be around, and the possibilities for making a difference in our community are endless with this team.”
Anderson began with JCPRD in 1996 as a school age program director. From 2004 to November of this year, she served as a children’s services specialist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation, and tourism from the University of Missouri - Columbia, and a master’s degree in business administration from Baker University. She previously worked for Kansas City, Mo., Parks, Recreation, and Boulevards for about two years as a naturalist.
The Children’s Services Department currently consists of 66 Out of School Time (OST) programs, seven pre-kindergarten programs, two Natureplay Preschools, one Early Childhood Development Center, as well as Special Populations and Special Olympics programs.
Anderson noted that in October 2019 alone, the department served: 3,291 school-age children through OST programs, 160 athletes through Special Olympics/Special Populations, 139 preschool & pre-K children, and along the way provided approximately 98,600 snacks in these programs.
Anderson said her most immediate goals in her new position center around the recent and sudden growth the department has experienced this year since the May announcement that it would be operating OST programs at 36 schools in the Olathe Public Schools District beginning for the 2019-2020 school year. These are in addition to the OST programs operated by JCPRD at 30 schools in the Shawnee Mission, Garden-Edgerton, and De Soto school districts.
“I want to ensure that we maintain our reputation for high-quality programs and remain a unified and cohesive team throughout this transition,” she said. “Beyond that, I am still gathering information and talking with the many people that make our department great - there are programs that I want to become more familiar with before determining goals beyond that, and I want to make sure that any future goals are truly the goals of our team.”
With the department’s rapid growth, it’s no surprise that Anderson considers her staff the department’s greatest strength, while continuing to maintain staff levels is an ongoing challenge she is addressing.
“They are creative, flexible, tenacious, and fun,” she said. “They possess the ability to facilitate amazing programs for kids (and adults, in the case of Special Populations), develop positive relationships, and manage the business side of things as well. Continuing to find quality staff for our programs has become our biggest challenge. We are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to recruit program staff.”