Early Childhood Deputy Director
The Children’s Aid Society
BUILDING SUPPORTIVE FAMILIES
Fast fact: Tweet him @lilpor2guy
Antonio Freitas, who started working at the Children’s Aid Society as a program director in 2011, helps train early childhood staff and manages educational compliance at sites in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. He previously recruited for Uncommon Schools and taught second graders at its Leadership Prep Bed-Stuyvesant school.
NYN: HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD?
AF: I did my school background in social work and working over the course of my college career in the state penitentiary in Washington state got me motivated in the idea of educational equity and limited opportunity in areas of high need, high poverty and low resources. I started in second grade but then continued earlier and earlier, thinking more about family engagement with education as the ideal partnership.
NYN: DESCRIBE AN ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF.
AF: We’re in this process of making sure that there is an explicit, articulated definition of what it means to be a successful site that engages families, that defines teaching excellence and that really ensures kindergarten readiness for all of our students and all of their families. The training of the education coaches, the delegation of responsibilities and the work that I’ve done with them is pivotal in that process.
NYN: WHAT CHANGE WOULD MOST HELP THE INDIVIDUALS YOUR ORGANIZATION SERVES?
AF: Based on both your certification and also the grade you teach, there are wild disparities between people’s salaries. And they’re all very close, if not directly on or below, the minimum wage. What we’ve found is that those people who are either the most highly skilled or the most highly certified quickly get trained and then move on to other positions or other places where they can be paid more to do the same work.
NYN: WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU RETIRE?
AF: We’re wanting to both support families and to create supportive families. What that looks like is a very selfsustaining approach in that we’re providing a space for families to take risks and to train and to learn so that they don’t need us and they see us a resource, but then they’re ultimately able to navigate through the waters of living in New York. I think that ultimately I’m working myself out of a job, if I’m doing it right.
NYN: WHAT DO YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOUR JOB?
AF: If early childhood educators are doing our job well, then we are secondary parents, parents are primary educators. And we’re speaking the same language in both places so that there’s a seamless transition between school and home for our students. For kids in early childhood centers, play is work. Early childhood lunchtime is a little bit like a happy hour. Kids are just talking about whatever and shooting the breeze but it’s a fascinating way to see how kids at different ages are engaging with the world and making sense of it with each other.