FORT KNOX, Ky. — Fort Knox’s School Age Center staff cheered and basked in the glow of blue and silver balloons and Child and Youth Services and Garrison leaders’ praise Feb. 9 as they celebrated their reaccreditation in November 2023.
Child and Youth Services director Rayceil Oggs said the center is required to be reaccredited every four years, but this latest one felt extra special.
“This year, I had concerns because this is the first time ever that I had a brand-new director. I had a brand-new trainer, and about 80% of my staff were new caregivers,” said Oggs. “My admin staff at the front desk was all new. My maintenance person was new, my cooks were new — I had only one other person here who had been through another reaccreditation visit.
“So, I had concerns because there is so much paperwork that you have to do and submit to the Council on Accreditation, and everything has to be dress-right-dress.”
Each center’s year-long effort to get up to standard focuses on about 200 areas upon which they are assessed during the site visit. Though Oggs had concerns because of the lack of reaccreditation experience among her staff, she said she by the end she felt confident they would do well.
She had no idea how well.
“They greatly exceeded my expectation because they scored 100%,” said Oggs. “That’s highly unusual, especially since most everybody was going through this for the first time.”
Council on Accreditation members sat down with Oggs after their two-day visit Nov. 6-7 to go over how they had done. She said she was armed with a pen and notepad to take down all the deficiencies.
“They cover pretty much everything, so I was ready to write,” said Oggs. “When we sat down to talk, she said, ‘You don’t need any pens and paper.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, right.’ But there was nothing in terms of elements that we did not meet.”
Oggs said over the years they have earned a couple of perfect scores. The first of those came when accreditation was in its infancy.
A good friend of Oggs, Linda Wood remembers well how accreditation came about. She held the director position of what was then called School Age Services in 1995.
“I stood up the program; I was there from the beginning,” said Wood. “In the past it had been part of the youth services in the Middle School and Teen Program. When I came to work at Fort Knox from another location, I was asked if I wanted to stand up an independent school age program – and that’s what I did.”
Wood said shortly after forming the Fort Knox School Age Services program, Army leaders learned that Wellesley College in Boston had established standards for quality school age care.
When the college had complete work on the standards, the Army asked for volunteers among the various installation school age services programs to take part in the first-ever accreditation.
“When [the Army] put that information out, they also promised technical assistance to help programs come up to the standards,” said Wood. “I volunteered for that.”
Wood said her reasoning was, if the Army is willing to send experts to installations to offer advice on the best quality care for school age children, she was willing to learn from them.
“I saw this as a great opportunity to improve the program,” said Wood. “It progressed to the point where they wanted us to apply for accreditation, so I applied right away. When the experts came in, they told me ours was the best program they had ever seen.
“Turns out, that was the first year, 1996, that we were accredited — we were the first in the Army.”
Not only did they earn accreditation before anybody else, they also did it with a perfect score that same year, said Wood.
The center has remained accredited ever since. Oggs and her center director, Dawn Caudill, said the perfect score was done in a vacuum. It took a solid team of several individuals in directorates at Fort Knox Garrison. One of those is the Directorate of Public Works.
“The facility makes a big difference. It was very clean, and that is attributed to what the DPW has given to us in terms of having to pay for our own custodial team,” said Oggs. “It was the first impression.”
Oggs said the accreditation expert noted how well organized and professional the facility appeared, which led to a fun atmosphere for the children.
Other organizations were also touted.
“If it was not for the proponents, such as our fire, safety, environmental, health, [Army Public Health Nurses] and a big part of this being the chain of command,” said Oggs, “we probably would not enjoying a perfect score. We all have each other’s backs.”