Five decades of service have embedded one particular church preschool program deeply into the lives of Bartlett residents. On Nov. 4, Bartlett United Methodist Church Preschool (BUMPS) celebrated its 50th anniversary in the church’s Life Enrichment Center.
The program still operates by its mission statement, coined long ago: “The Bartlett United Methodist Preschool has been established to provide a Christian environment in which young children may have experiences which will enable them to develop emotionally, socially, cognitively, and spiritually.”
According to a BUMPS history compiled by retired director Ginger Webb, parents pay tuition and registration, and the church provides rooms, custodial services and utilities. The school makes monthly payments to defray the church’s costs. Over the years, the preschool has gifted the church with playground equipment, half the cost of a new church van, donations to the church budget and payments to paint, maintain and improve the spaces used.
Webb fondly recalls how parents, grandparents and other family members have participated in BUMPS over the years. They have given holiday parties, chaperoned field trips, shared their talents in the music room, helped with costumes and decor for special programs and graduation, and visited classes to talk about their occupations, cultural backgrounds, trips and hobbies.
The church had three different preschool programs in the early years.
Karen Liles of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bartlett taught kindergartners in a rented classroom, starting in 1967. She operated there for 35 years until her retirement in May 2002. The kindergarten class was also retired that year, and the room was used for the overflow of three-year-olds in the Kids’ Day Out program.
An assistant hired by Liles, Sandra Brown, later became lead teacher for a four-year-old class. There also was a nursery school for younger children under the leadership of Kathleen Hill. When Hill left, Nell Brewer became lead teacher for the threes.
In 1975 the church integrated all three programs into the Bartlett United Methodist Preschool with children ages 3-4 attending on alternating days (some on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with others on Tuesdays and Thursdays) from 9 a.m. to noon. Kindergartners attended all five days. Later, BUMPS added the option of Stay and Play until 2:30 p.m.
The church added another 13 classrooms and a large office for the pastor in 1977 in response to the need for more Sunday School space as well as to meet the licensing requirement that weekday programs must be located on the bottom floor.
Preschool used the rooms downstairs: The Music Room, one room for kindergartners, one room for three-year-olds, two for four-year-olds, and one room that cared for a group of four-year-olds on three days a week and a group of three-year-olds on two days a week. The kindergarten space was used for the Mothers Day Out program (later renamed Kids Day Out) starting in 1990.
Carolyn Moore helped the preschool organize school records in 1979 to meet new licensure requirements, and BUMPS hired Ruth Ann Spencer (Fisher) as the full-time director in January 1980. She served for four years before moving to a teaching position with Shelby County Schools.
Webb, then the chairman of the preschool administrative committee, served as interim director and then director when Spencer left. While chairman, she organized minutes, headed a committee to write the preschool’s policy and procedures handbook, penned the school’s mission statement.
During Webb’s tenure as director, the preschool became one of the first in the Bartlett area to receive the prestigious accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This status requires yearly written reports and NAEYC evaluation visits every three years.
When the state’s licensing agency, Tennessee Department of Human Services, began a quality rating program, BUMPS complied and has consistently earned the top “Three Star” award.
When kindergarten attendance became mandatory in Tennessee, Webb and Liles worked to ensure that the program met all state guidelines. One requirement was to establish a lending library at the preschool. Another was attendance of at least four hours a day, so kindergarten hours became 8 a.m. until noon with optional Stay and Play until 2:30 on Mondays and/or Thursdays. BUMC Kindergarten maintained state approval until Liles’ retirement.
In 1984, BUMPS began constructing a children’s Christmas float every year for the city’s Christmas parade. The trophy case near the preschool office holds all the trophies won over the years, including many first-place honors and even three “Best in Parade” awards.
In 1990 the church built the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) with a gym, walking track, racquetball court, fitness room, director’s office, parlor, activity room, kitchen and classrooms. The lower floor was used by the preschool during the week. One room was used for the kindergarten. One room was designated the Music Room. The other four rooms were used for three- and four-year-old preschool classes.
Preschool was very happy to use the gym for play time during inclement weather and for music and other programs, Webb said.
She and her staff also designed a new playground on the south side of the LEC, and children enjoyed the swings, climbing structures, riding toys and large playhouse. This space gave way to a parking lot when the new sanctuary was built in 2002. A smaller playground was then established between the KDO area and the new sanctuary.
Webb retired in May 2004 after nearly 21 years of service. Teena Maginn became the next director and served for four years until she left in May 2008. During Maginn’s tenure, she initiated weekly schoolwide chapel programs and introduced a pre-K five-day program to meet the needs of four-year-olds who were not ready for kindergarten.
Under Maginn’s leadership, BUMPS transitioned to a different accreditation program, becoming the first in Memphis to achieve accreditation from the United Methodist Association of Preschools [UMAP]. The program also continued earning “Three Star” ratings from the state. Christmas parade participation continued for one more year and was then discontinued.
Kim Whiteside was director from the 2008-09 school year until May 2011, when the present director, Jennifer Freeman, came on board.
Under her direction, the number of Stay and Play days increased. The program still receives the “Three Star” rating from the state, and children continue enjoying the weekly chapel programs,
Preschoolers now also participate in two fundraisers for children’s hospitals in Memphis: The Trike-A-Thon that benefits St. Jude, and the “Go Jim Go” fundraiser with former preschool dad Jim Jaggers riding his bike each fall to benefit LeBonheur.
With data compiled through September, Webb listed the BUMPS teachers with long service records:
Teachers for more than 30 years have included Nell Brewer, three-year-olds; Sandra Brown, four-year-olds; and Karen Liles, kindergartners. Brewer and Liles have since passed away.
Teachers for 20-30 years have included Carolyn Holloway, four-year-olds; Marilyn Parker, assistant for four-year-olds; Annette Stokes, assistant for three-year-olds; Marlene Strehlau, three- and four-year-olds and pre-K students; and director Ginger Webb. Stocks is still on staff for the current school year. Former director Ginger Webb also falls in the 20- to 30-year range.
Teachers serving between 10 and 20 years have included Margaret Albin, assistant for three-year-olds; Debbie Arrison, Vickie Bell and Denise Grimm, assistants for four-year-olds; Heather Carter, three-year-olds; Susan Holst, assistant for three- and four-year-olds; Jill Levesque, four-year-olds; Angela Phillips, assistant for three- and four-year-olds and pre-K students; Carol Price, music teacher; and Laurie Rieman, three-year-olds. Those still on staff for the current school year include Albin, Carter, Grimm, Levesque and Price. Holst has since passed away.
Teachers serving between five and 10 years have included Kay Allen, three- and four-year-olds; director Jennifer Freeman; Maggie Ireland, assistant for three-year-olds; Anna Kreis, assistant for kindergarten and three-year-olds; Shelia Patey, assistant for kindergartners; Kim Parobek, assistant for music; Jean Wilson, pre-K; and Julie Wuerfel, music teacher. Freeman, Parobek and Wilson are still on staff for the current school year.