2/1/2021 Constant Contact https://campaign-ui.constantcontact.com/campaign/campaigns/list 1/11 Decidedly DECAL Highlighting the Events That Shape Who We Are DECAL By the Numbers 4,439 - Licensed child care programs in Georgia 3,595 - Quality Rated child care programs in Georgia 66,273 - Students enrolled in Georgia’s Pre-K Program 262 - Summer Food Service Program emergency feeding sites $92 million - CARES funding dollars to licensed child care programs in Georgia impacted by COVID-19 749 - DECAL employees Follow DECAL on Social Media Commissioner's Corner by Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs Dear DECAL Co-workers, In this issue of Decidedly DECAL, I want to share with you something I’ve been thinking about the past few weeks…best summed up in the word NEW. Yes, in some ways it looks like 2021 is beginning much the same way 2020 ended: a pandemic is raging; the economy is sputtering; civil unrest is creating a sense of instability and anxiety. BUT, despite these very real conditions, I’m encouraged. This is a new year. Scientists around the world have created vaccines and new treatments for COVID-19. Georgia’s economy, which is stronger than in many other states, has new potential. And we will have many new opportunities to serve children and families through the important programs and services we administer and oversee. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” As I’ve told you before, this past year you demonstrated your strength and your ability to think new thoughts to accomplish our work in new ways. That’s why I’m encouraged. I begin this new day, this new year confident that we’ll be able to continue our work in 2021 with new strength, new thoughts, and renewed hope. If we did it last year, we can continue to do it this year. Governor Kemp delivered his State of the State address last week in which he reflected on what Georgia had been through last year…and pointed to a positive way forward for our state. I was particularly encouraged by these words: In Georgia, our people are the foundation. Despite incredible loss and unprecedented challenges, Georgia is still standing. Our house, built on a sure foundation, survived the storm. … A better, brighter future is

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Decidedly DECALHighlighting the Events That Shape Who We Are

DECAL By the Numbers

4,439 - Licensed child careprograms in Georgia3,595 - Quality Rated child careprograms in Georgia66,273 - Students enrolled inGeorgia’s Pre-K Program262 - Summer Food ServiceProgram emergency feedingsites$92 million - CARES fundingdollars to licensed child careprograms in Georgia impactedby COVID-19749 - DECAL employees

Follow DECAL onSocial Media

Commissioner's Cornerby Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs

Dear DECAL Co-workers, In this issue of Decidedly DECAL, Iwant to share with you something I’vebeen thinking about the past fewweeks…best summed up in the wordNEW. Yes, in some ways it looks like2021 is beginning much the same way2020 ended: a pandemic is raging; theeconomy is sputtering; civil unrest is

creating a sense of instability and anxiety.

BUT, despite these very real conditions, I’m encouraged. This is anew year. Scientists around the world have created vaccines andnew treatments for COVID-19. Georgia’s economy, which isstronger than in many other states, has new potential. And wewill have many new opportunities to serve children and familiesthrough the important programs and services we administer andoversee.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “With the new day comes newstrength and new thoughts.” As I’ve told you before, this pastyear you demonstrated your strength and your ability to thinknew thoughts to accomplish our work in new ways.

That’s why I’m encouraged. I begin this new day, this new yearconfident that we’ll be able to continue our work in 2021 withnew strength, new thoughts, and renewed hope. If we did it lastyear, we can continue to do it this year.

Governor Kemp delivered his State of the State address last weekin which he reflected on what Georgia had been through lastyear…and pointed to a positive way forward for our state. I wasparticularly encouraged by these words: In Georgia, our peopleare the foundation. Despite incredible loss and unprecedentedchallenges, Georgia is still standing. Our house, built on a surefoundation, survived the storm. … A better, brighter future is

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New Episodes Every Wednesday

The Faces of DECAL

DECAL faces featured in thebanner of this issue are (L-R)Barbara McWethy, AntaviusThompson , Denise Jensen,David Ginsburg, and MalissaChampion.

right around the corner. Yes, we still have challenges ahead, avirus to beat, an economy to rebuild and restore. But my fellowGeorgians, the State of the State is resilient, and we will endure.

While the Governor was referring to our state as a whole in hiswords, I think they also apply to DECAL: you, DECAL employees,are the foundation. We are still standing…we survived the storm…we are resilient…we will endure…and a better, brighter future isright around the corner.

I’m honored to stand with you in this new year.

Celebrating InclusiveEarly Learning Week

Governor Kemp has proclaimedFebruary 7-13, 2021 as InclusiveEarly Learning Week in Georgia,and we invite you to celebratethe important practice ofinclusion!

As champions for youngchildren, we at DECAL wantchildren of all abilities to haveequal access to quality earlychildhood programs thatsupport their individualizedlearning and development needsand foster a sense of belongingand engagement.The NationalAssociation for the Education ofYoung Children and the Divisionfor Early Childhood describeearly childhood inclusion asembodying “the values, policies,and practices that support theright of every infant and youngchild and his or her family,regardless of ability, toparticipate in a broad range ofactivities and contexts as fullmembers of families,communities, and society.”Ensuring that children withdisabilities are included in highquality early learningenvironments is one of main

Kemp & DECAL Unveil Pre-K, Assistant & ChildCare Teachers Supplemental Pay Program

Governor Brian P. Kemp and DECAL Commissioner Amy M. Jacobslast week announced plans to provide $1,000 supplemental paymentsto eligible Pre-K teachers, assistant teachers, and child care teachersin Georgia. These payments will be funded through the federal ChildCare and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds provided in themost recent Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. These paymentsare targeted for programs which remained open throughout thepandemic. “Child care and Georgia’s Pre-K Program teachers were on thefrontlines of COVID-19’s impact on our families and communitiesfrom the very beginning, caring for the children of first respondersand essential workers,” said Governor Kemp. “Throughout thepandemic, we have remained laser-focused on ensuring that parentscan return to work safely with the knowledge that their children arewell taken care of. I thank Commissioner Jacobs and her team forworking tirelessly to administer these funds and support children,parents, and educators throughout Georgia.” In the next couple of weeks, DECAL will publish eligibility criteria inaccordance with federal law and begin disbursing pay to Georgia’sPre-K and child care workforce.

DECAL Has First InfantEarly Childhood MentalHealth Director

With abrupt changes to routine and life ingeneral, mental health has come to theforefront during the Caovid-19 pandemic.Taking care and responding appropriately

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priorities of the Inclusion andBehavior Support Services unit.

One of the ways Inclusion andBehavior Support Services unitsupports child care providers isby providing professionaldevelopment and coaching onhow to modify their learningenvironments, daily activities,and teaching practices to ensurehigh quality inclusion. The unitalso works with families toprovide referrals to inclusivechild care programs and toidentify community resourceagencies in their area. By callingthe SEEDS for Success Helpline,early childhood providers andfamilies can request support orresources from the Inclusionand Behavior Support Servicesunit to help them betterunderstand and address thesocial, emotional, anddevelopmental needs of allchildren.

We encourage providers andstaff to celebrate Inclusive EarlyLearning Week in a number offun ways! A provider celebrationtoolkit will be shared with allprograms containing activities inwhich providers might engagechildren, staff, and familiesthroughout the week.

Commissioner Jacobs will read asocial story celebrating ourunique differences that wasdeveloped by the Inclusion andBehavior Support unit.

Please join us in promotinginclusive practices duringInclusive Early Learning Weekand share how you celebrateinclusion by posting on socialmedia with the hashtag#loveinclusion2021 and#GaSEEDSforSuccess!

is important to all but especially to ouryoungest children. Thanks to the GeorgiaGeneral Assembly, a new position wascreated at DECAL to support social andemotional health in a child’s critical earlyyears of life. Laura Lucas is DECAL’s firstInfant Early Childhood Mental HealthDirector.

“I am so proud to be the first to serve inthis position at DECAL. Everyone hereand at other child-serving state agencies and our communitypartners have been so welcoming and supportive. I look forwardto seeing how my role can strengthen the system to betterpromote and sustain the social and emotional health of ouryoungest children in Georgia,” says Lucas.

With a master’s degree in human development and family studies,Laura brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to DECAL.“Many agencies provide services for young children in Georgiaand do a great job, and I have had the privilege to work with manyof them. I ope to serve as a bridge to connect DECAL to their workfor young children and families,” Lucas said.

While at the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health andDevelopmental Disabilities (DBHDD), Lucas served as theDirector for CASIG (Child and Adolescent Infrastructure Grant)and CHIPRA (Child’s Health Insurance Program ReauthorizationAct). The goal of both projects was to build a better system toserve children’s mental and behavioral health needs in Georgia.Laura’s position at DECAL builds on the good work of theInclusion and Behavior Support Unit to further focus onchildren's mental health.

Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health is best defined as ayoung child’s capacity to experience, regulate, and expressemotions, form close and secure relationships, and explore theenvironment and learn. Unfortunately, there is a stigma aroundmental health that can often cause signs to be overlookedespecially with all children having different temperaments andpersonalities. If a child is experiencing a mental health issue, andit is ignored or passed off as bad behavior, it can be a missedopportunity and very stressful for the parent, teacher, or othercaregivers. “If a parent, caregiver, or teacher notices that a childfrequently has trouble expressing emotions, forming closerelationships, or exploring their environment, screenings existthat can help identify if the child is experiencing a developmentaldelay, and interventions can be administered to address the issue.The key is to identify and address the problem as soon aspossible,” said Lucas. Laura went on to say that this is mostbeneficial in the earliest years of life when children experiencevery rapid brain growth.

The overall goal is to identify these issues early, assess and treatthem to prevent lifelong implications. “My goal is to strengthen

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Summit Plannedto Recruit SFSPSponsors

With many parents out of work,more kids will be facing hungerin the months ahead, especiallywhen school is out for summer.To ensure kids and teens haveaccess to healthy meals, theNutrition Services Division ishosting a Virtual SummerFood Service Program(SFSP) Summit on February 16at 10:00 a.m. The summit isoffered free to any eligibleorganization that is interested inlearning about the SummerFood Service Program, aprogram that offersreimbursement to approvedsponsoring organizations thatprovide nutritious meals andsnacks to children.

COVID made a huge impact onchild food insecurity throughoutGeorgia. According to FeedingAmerica, a nationwide networkof foodbanks, the child foodinsecurity rate increasedsignificantly by 39% in only twoyears – growing from 16% in2018 to 23% in 2020.

This year, the need forsponsoring organizations toprovide free meals to childrenwill be greater than ever as the

this system by supporting better connections and easier access toservices for children, families, and child care providers,” saysLucas. Parents and primary caregivers are of course the first lineof defense, which leads directly into the bigger system of earlyintervention providers such as home visitors and interventionspecialists. It takes a village and as Lucas points out “children canbe very resilient and while early intervention is better, it is nevertoo late to support a child’s social/emotional health, especially inworking with children who have experienced traumatic events.”

Pandemic Office Hours Vary forDECAL Employees

Since the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency in March2020, most DECAL employees have been working fromhome. However, a small number of employees never stoppedreporting to Capitol Hill, and more joined them when our officesopened to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting June 2,2020.

So, what’s it been like around the offices during a pandemic?“Very quiet,” says Agency Receptionist Tammy Clark, who hasbeen in-person since June 2 to receive and direct phone calls,greet guests with documents, and manage the mail. “I appreciateour efforts to slow the spread of the virus,” Clark explains. “Thereare prime parking spaces available and no traffic! I hope we willall be back as soon as the surge is under control along withvaccines administered to all who need and want it.”

CAPS Administrative Services Manager Andrea Moore andScholarship Administrative Assistant CynQueshia Martin havenever stopped coming into the office with a schedule that variesweekly based on workload. Moore and Martin handle CAPSredetermination letters to parents, certified letters for providers,and meet American Document Securities, Inc. monthly fordocument shredding. “I am okay with limited staff due to theuncertainty of the virus,” Moore says, adding for now she is notlooking forward to the staff returning at full capacity. AddsMartin, “I have noticed that traffic to and from the office has beenexceptionally light and easy. The Agriculture Building is empty forthe most part, and the Towers have very few people present.”

“I only stopped coming to the office for two weeks at the end ofMarch,” says CCS Administrative and Operations ManagerLaKeyshia Tucker, who visits the office frequently for OpenRecords Requests that need information pulled from statefiles. “The building makes a lot of sounds that you usuallywouldn’t notice if the office was full,” she says. Tucker would liketo see a hybrid model of staff working from home and in theoffice, adding, “During this time it has been shown that most ofthe staff can work from home and not have to come into theoffice.”

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pandemic has left many familiesfacing hunger and poverty. “Thousands of Georgia’schildren are living with hungerright now because of COVID,”said Tamika Boone, NutritionServices Director. “The SFSP isone solution that benefits thewhole community by helpingalleviate child hunger andproviding local economies withfederal reimbursement funds.”

Organizations that are eligible tobecome SFSP sponsors includenonprofits, libraries, schools,camps, churches, parks andrecreation services, and units oflocal government. If you know ofeligible organizations that maybe interested in learning moreabout SFSP, please share thislink to register for the SFSPSummit. For more information,please contact Gaby Garza [email protected], we can help feedGeorgia’s children!

This institution is an equalopportunity provider.

DECAL ExpandedSOLVE Program inDecember 2020

Beginning December 18, 2020,DECAL began expanding afinancial program to includechildren and young adults withdisabilities whose schoolsystems offer a primarily virtuallearning model and who needcare while their parents work.The program, referred to as theSOLVE (Supporting Onsite

Meanwhile, in Finance, Accounts Receivable Supervisor BartEllington and Financial Operations Assistant Rosalind Morrishave been coming to the office twice each month to check mail,scan, and e-mail to the appropriate person, and deposit anychecks that come in for payment. “It’s very quiet in the office,almost eerily quiet,” observed Ellington. “I have also noticed allthe social distancing measures in the building such as limitingelevator capacity to four.”

Legal Supervisor Avery Jenkins says he needs to keep coming tothe office so child care employees awaiting results from CriminalBackground Checks can continue working. “I receive Child AbuseRegistry results from other states so applicants can be cleared towork,” Jenkins explains. “I also handle walk-ins in case someonecomes to the office for assistance with their backgroundcheck.” Jenkins says coming to the office isn’t a problem: “Thecafeteria is open and the GBA has provided hand sanitizer tomake us feel comfortable and safe. I do enjoy working from home,but I also like coming into the office just to get out and interactwith others.”

Interim Procurement Manager Lisa Rambhajan recruited herfamily to help distribute personal protective equipment for staffand contractors. “We got our PPE items from GEMA (GeorgiaEmergency Management Agency), and my family came into theoffice one Friday and helped me fill more than 650 bottles of handsanitizer. Lately I have been putting together PPE equipment forAudits and Compliance, Child Care Services, and Practice andSupport Services.”

Dennis Brice, Chief Information Officer, points out that his ITSupport Desk team has reported to the office through most of thepandemic, now assisting any staff that may come in four days perweek. According to Customer Relationship Manager AndresBernal, since the start of the pandemic, his team has receivedmore than 10,000 tickets and delivered more than 80 laptops, 30printers and scanners, and 250 new phones, mostly the newiPhone SE. They have also welcomed three new staff members tothe Service Desk: Blessings Blanford, Shanell Fairell, and AmirNilforoosham.

While working remotely, DECAL has stayed in touch withemployees through Zoom meetings, All Staff webinars, podcasts,social media, quarterly newsletters, and text messages, as needed.

We Are Here to Help!

The DECAL Service Desk has many ways to help you getconnected and have your issues, requests, or questions resolved ina simple and fast way:- Call us 404.463.1198- Email us at [email protected] Create a ticket online https://itservices.decal.ga.gov/sp- Order different kinds of items and/or services thru ournew and improved service catalog page

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Learning for Virtual Education)program, originally offeredscholarships for students ages 5-12 only.

Under the expanded SOLVEprogram, children and youngadults up to age 22 who have adisability are eligible for aSOLVE scholarship regardless ofthe family’s income. Also, theSOLVE payment rate for caringfor children and young adultswith disabilities will increasebased on the provider’s location,facility type, and Quality Ratedstar level.

SOLVE is administered byDECAL’s Childcare and ParentServices (CAPS) unit thatoversees Georgia’s subsidizedchild care for low incomefamilies. SOLVE is funded by theGovernor’s EmergencyEducation Relief Fund, part ofthe federal CARES Act.

For more information on theSOLVE Program or on applying forthese special resources, visitwww.decal.ga.gov; call 1-833-442-2277; or [email protected].

CDC Report HighlightsSuccess of GeorgiaHead Start Programs inMitigating Spread ofCOVID-19

The Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC) inDecember released a reporthighlighting Head Start’seffective response in managingthe spread of COVID-19. Viewthe report here:https://bit.ly/2JPESgL The study found programs havebeen successful at implementingCDC-recommended guidance

https://itservices.decal.ga.gov/sp?id=order_my_items- Resolve some of their issues on our Knowledge base pagehttps://itservices.decal.ga.gov/sp?id=kb_view2

DECAL IT team stands ready to support staff reporting to work.Front row (L-R) Amir Nilforooshan, Andres Bernal, AlphonsoRembert; Middle row (L-R) Blessings Blanford, Ebony Ford,Shanell Fairell; Back row (L-R) Antavius Thompson, Nate Smith,Logan Simpson

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and other mitigation strategiesthat could serve as a model forthe early care and educationsystem across the country. Thereport also validated the criticalrole that increased funding,provided through the CARESAct, played in enabling HeadStart programs to supportfamilies in a safe, healthymanner.

The study, which included HeadStart grantees in Georgia,Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Missouri,Texas, Washington, andWisconsin noted several factorscontributing to successfulimplementation of CDC-recommended guidelines thathelped to prevent COVID-19transmission among childrenand staff members, including:

•Following the lead of expertsand their recommendations;•Funding programs through theCARES Act to enable necessaryadaptations;•Providing flexibility andsupport for Head Start staff,including flexible medical leave,reimbursement for health carecosts, remote work options, andflexible hours;•Taking a nimble, multi-prongedapproach that evolves ascircumstances change; and•Conducting multi-faceted,ongoing communication withconsistent messaging amongprogram administrators, parentsand caregivers, teachers, andother staff members, as well ascontinuous engagement withcommunity partners.

Allison Setterlind, Director ofGeorgia’s Head StartCollaboration Office,added: “This CDC report providespositive reinforcement for thehard work we have seen on theground here in Georgia. Our

DECAL Receptionist Tammy Clark has been reporting to heroffice since June 2.

Interim ProcurementManager LisaRambhajan recruited herfamily in June to help herprepare PPE foremployees andcontractors.

Breakroom RenovationUnderway

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Head Start and Early Head Startprograms continue to provideessential services to more than24,000 young children and theirfamilies during this stressfultime. Our Head Start staff havegone the extra mile these pastmonths to keep families safe andprovide a critical lifeline tohealth, mental health, earlyeducation, and nutritionresources. Georgia Head Startprograms have benefited fromthe support and resources fromthe Georgia Department of EarlyCare and Learning in providinghigh- quality services during thepandemic.”

Congratulations toBartlett and Davison Years ofService

Join us in congratulatingCompliance Supervisor RichardBartlett in the Audits andCompliance Division on 35 yearsof service to the State of Georgia.Richard manages complianceexaminers whose job is to reviewCAPS referrals for potentialimproper payment. Richard hasbeen with DECAL since July2013.

We also congratulateCompliance Examiner KatieDavis on 20 years of service tothe State of Georgia. Katie hasbeen with DECAL since January2017.

Richard (top photo) and Katie(bottom photo) are picturedbelow.

When we return to the office later this year, DECAL employeeswill see a new breakroom on the seventh floor of the EastTower. But these renovations were not planned. On Tuesday,August 11, Agency Receptionist Tammy Clark found a leak in thewater cooler that had occurred sometime over the weekend.

“When Tammy came into work on Tuesday, the floors werebuckled, and there was water up to her ankles,” explained LisaRambhajan, Interim Procurement Manager. “The leak causedmold in the wall and under the sink.” As a result of the damage,floors had to be replaced and new countertops and a sinkinstalled.

Not exactly an Extreme Home Makeover, but a BreakroomMakeover under Extreme Conditions.

DECAL Download Enters ThirdSeason of Production

Our weekly podcast, DECAL Download, has entered its thirdseason of production. Begun on September 24, 2018, the programis hosted by Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs and ChiefCommunications Officer Reg Griffin. DECAL Download featurestopics and interviews concerning all divisions of the agency. Thepodcast has even attracted a few celebrity guests including

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Supporting and guidingthe mission and vision

of Bright from the Start:

Board of EarlyCare and Learning

VACANTFirst Congressional District

Susan Harper, Albany

Second Congressional District(Chair)

Kathy Howell, Carrollton

Third Congressional District(Secretary)

Phil Davis, Stone Mountain

Fourth Congressional District

Governor Brian Kemp, Department of Public HealthCommissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Consumer Advocate ClarkHoward, Musician and Author Coy Bowles, former US Secretaryof Agriculture and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, andformer Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal.

In addition to the interviews, each episode of DECAL Downloadincludes a “water cooler” question for Commissioner Jacobs and aquiz question from the episode where all correct responses areentered into a drawing for a prize.

“Effective communication is very important but can also bechallenging with staff members located throughout the entirestate,” said Commissioner Jacobs. “DECAL Download has allowedus to provide updates on the work of DECAL but also otherimportant initiatives. It has really been fun to co-host with RegGriffin and interview so many excellent guests. I’m lookingforward to continuing to provide informative and fun podcasts toour DECAL team and other listeners.”

The suggestion for a podcast originally came from CCS QualityImprovement Training Coordinator Candace Gilbert. “As a field-based member of the CCS team, I have always found it difficult tokeep up with all the email alerts, to watch a quick video, or spendtime looking at booklets or flyers,” Gilbert explained. “When Ithought about how I received information, I realized it was mostlythrough something that I listened to, as most of my time wasspent traveling and out of the office. It is also great for providerswe serve, who may also struggle with keeping up with all theemails and paperwork.”

In May 2020, DECAL Download was the winner of the Academyof Interactive and Visual Arts’ 26th Annual Communicator Awardof Excellence for Podcast-Series-Government.

DECAL Download is available on all major podcast platformsincluding Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher,TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, Overcast, Podbean, Pocket Casts, andothers. A new episode is posted every Wednesday.

More than 130 episodes of DECAL Download have now beenrecorded and are archived on each podcast platform with linksalso available on POLAR and here in Decidedly DECAL.To give your feedback or suggest future topics and guests, pleasee-mail [email protected].

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(Vice Chair)

Kristy Beam, Ed.D, AtlantaFifth Congressional District


Sixth Congressional District

Kristin Morrissey, CummingSeventh Congressional District

Luann Purcell, Ed.D.,

Warner RobinsEighth Congressional District

Cristina Washell, Ed.D.,

ClevelandNinth Congressional District

Theresa Magpuri-Lavell, Ed.D.,

MilledgevilleTenth Congressional District

Jen Bennecke, Atlanta

Eleventh Congressional District

VACANTTwelfth Congressional District

Melissa Boekhaus, M.D.,

Smyrna ThirteenthCongressional District

Debra Brock, Calhoun

Fourteenth CongressionalDistrict

Sign up for DECALtext messages bytexting DECAL to


Join the Capitol Hill Toastmasters Meeting virtually everyTuesday at 12:05 pm and see what it’s all about. You will learnleadership skills, improve communication, gain personal growth,and more! If interested, contact Gaby Garza for more infoat [email protected].

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Georgia Department of Early Care andLearning

2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, 754 East Tower,Atlanta, GA 30334


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