United Way of Dane County President & CEO Leslie Ann Howard addressing the crowd at the announcement of the creation of the “Leopold Early Childhood Zone.”

Dane County’s commitment to closing the achievement gap took the next step today as County Executive Joe Parisi opened a new Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) office in the Leopold Elementary School neighborhood. The new office is part of Dane County’s partnership with the United Way of Dane County to create a birth to four-year old kindergarten program.

“This investment will help make sure more kids enter four-year old kindergarten ready to succeed,” said Parisi.  “Collaborative efforts like this one to provide investments early will help bridge the achievement gap by giving kids and families the tools they need for a stable learning environment.  The achievement gap cannot be closed by the schools alone and this office will coordinate the community response that is needed to help address this problem.”

The office opening is part of the ‘Leopold Early Childhood Zone’ created in the County Executive’s 2013 budget. It builds on the county’s successful ECI program to help children and families get the skills they need to succeed in school and works with the United Way’s Parent-Child Home Program to comprehensively help kids.

“38% of Madison children entering kindergarten do not have the skills necessary to be successful in school,” says Leslie Ann Howard, President & CEO of United Way of Dane County. “Children who start school behind their peers have difficulty catching up. The creation of Early Childhood Zones, like this one at Leopold, will assure that children enter school prepared, ready to learn, and ultimately graduate from high school. We are thrilled to be partnering with the County Executive to help our youngest citizens.”

The ‘Leopold Early Childhood Zone’ will provide hands-on resources for parents, located in their own neighborhood, to help them prepare their children for success in school with at-home education and an emphasis on enrollment in 4-year-old kindergarten at Leopold School.

It will also expand home visitations in the Leopold area and link families with the resources they need to eliminate household instability to help maintain regular school attendance.

Children will receive regular in-home visits from staff, and together, children and their parents will be taught valuable developmental skills.  Children and their parents can also attend regular program events that reinforce the work they do together at home. These sessions will help children prepare for and succeed in school, as well as help their parents continue a lifestyle of learning at home.

The new Leopold office is complemented by two Play and Learn sites operated by the United Way and the Madison Metropolitan School District, giving additional educational opportunities for parents and caregivers to reinforce the learning strategies they will be gaining through the Early Childhood Zone.

Other partners in the ‘Leopold Early Childhood Zone’ include the Madison Metropolitan School District, Group Health Cooperative, Forward Service, Center for Families, Children’s Service Society, Dane County Parent Council and the South Central Workforce Development Board.

Our Community’s Agenda for Change


  • Students succeed academically and graduate from high school, regardless of race.
  • Children are cared for and have fun as they become prepared for school.


  • There is a decrease in family homelessness.
  • There is a reduction in violence toward individuals and families.


  • People’s health issues are identified and treated early.
  • Seniors and people with disabilities are able to stay in their homes.

United Way engages our community mobilizes volunteers and strengthens local nonprofits to achieve measurable results and change lives.

About United Way of Dane County

United Way of Dane County is addressing the underlying causes of community issues through our community’s Agenda for Change—seven goals focused on three priority areas of Education, Safety and Health that our community identified as most critical to changing lives and strengthening Dane County. Through strategic partnerships and collaborative work, we are achieving measurable results toward making our community better educated, safer, and healthier. United Way provides organizations and individuals the opportunity to give, advocate, and volunteer to change the human condition in Dane County.