Voices from the Field

Principal Shirley Esau: Communication is Key

As our school started up transitional kindergarten, I kept in mind that this is kindergarten — it is the first step in the kindergarten experience and would therefore receive all of the same funding as kindergarten (e.g., Title 1, EIA, class-size reduction, Title II and Title III funds). This mindset helped me to communicate to others that TK is the first year of a two-year kindergarten experience and part of the K-12 system.

Talking TK to Stakeholders

As a principal, I knew it was crucial that all stakeholders including administrators, teachers, early care and education providers and parents, understood that transitional kindergarten serves the same students we would have served before the kindergarten entry date changed. There was no need for a new classroom or a new teacher because we will be serving the same number of students. Rather, I needed to assign a current teacher to teach TK instead of their present grade level; in our case, it was a kindergarten teacher.

Explaining the Gift of Time to Parents

Communicating to parents that this was not an early retention, but a planned two-year kindergarten experience, was critical. Parents needed to understand that with the new kindergarten entry cutoff date their child would be eligible for the two-year kindergarten experience, beginning with TK. Once we conveyed to parents that this was giving their child the gift of time to really understand the foundational skills necessary for school success, and not retention, they were sold on the opportunity.

Communication is the Key to Successful TK

I view transitional kindergarten as a brilliant opportunity to use existing funds to prepare young children for success in school. It is important to share what TK is and how it works with everyone from stakeholders, administrators and staff to parents so that they, too, know just how exciting TK is. With all these partners backing TK, our kids will see great success in transitional kindergarten and each year after.


Shirley Esau has been in the field of education for 24 years in California. As principal of Washington Elementary School in Kingsburg, Shirley piloted transitional kindergarten in the 2010-11 school year and is on the Fresno County Office of Education Transitional Kindergarten Planning Committee and Professional Learning Committee.