Lynn Robinson had never heard of Mercer County Children’s Center before she applied for a job there, but she knew it was the place she wanted to work from the first time she stepped foot inside.
“You know how you can walk into a place and you can tell whether you fit in or not?” the new director of the Hermitage center said. “I walked in here and it felt like home.”
A Niles, Ohio, resident, Robinson said the position at the center brings together her experience as a teacher and administrator for public and private schools, and her education, which includes a bachelor’s degree in early education and master’s degrees in special education and administration.
Robinson taught at the Trumbull County Educational Service Center and Trumbull County Head Start, and was an administrator for Mahoning County Head Start and Potential Development Program, a school for autistic and special needs students in Youngstown.
Although she was more familiar with Ohio’s educational standards, policies and rules than Pennsylvania’s, there was not much of a transition, she said.
“For the most part, they’re pretty much the same,” she said. “I think the most challenging is the terminology.”
It helped that previous Director Carol Rich worked with her for about a month after Robinson’s June 5 start date. Robinson’s neighbor, former Farrell Area School District Superintendent Richard R. Rubano Jr., helped her with networking, and she said she has come to love the Hermitage community.
“It’s like one big family,” she said. “Everybody knows everybody.”
The center - the former Crippled Children’s Society - offers year-round daycare - including before and after school during the school year - for children ages 6 weeks to 12; an early intervention preschool with therapy for students with physical handicaps and developmental delays run by Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, Grove City; and houses Head Start classes.
The school has its own therapy pool and most students have access to it twice a week.
Enrollment in the center’s programs totals about 160, with 30 staff members.
Robinson, who is married to an Ohio state trooper and has three young children, said the center has an open door policy for parents. They can come in and out as they like, and are invited to attend programs and field trips, she said.
The center is a non-profit agency with a $600,000 budget funded by the United Way, private donors and grants and parents, and is a well-run organization, Robinson said.
Her goals include improving the public’s awareness of the center and fundraising; improving communication with donors; and keeping the center’s programs within state standards, something she said her background is well-suited for.
“It’s my goal for have everyone say, ‘Children’s Center of Mercer County, that is an awesome place,’” Robinson said. “I want to get out there and let people know who we are.”
Robinson said she would like to add onto the center for more classrooms, but her enthusiasm is tempered by the mortgage on the building from the last expansion six or seven years ago.
“I see programs going on a positive road,” she said. “It is very successful. Our classrooms are always full. I think we’ll make some positive changes.”
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