Gov. Dannel P. Malloy visited the Susanna Wesley School in Shelton on early Monday afternoon to learn about the private preschool and to promote the need to provide better access to early childhood education for people of all socio-economic backgrounds.

The Susanna Wesley School operates the BEST program that makes slots available for children from disadvantaged families in the Valley.

The Businesses Enriching Scholars Together program is privately funded and was started by Shelton farmer Terry Jones and Susanna Wesley School Director Roberta Cenci. Jones serves on the state Board of Education.

Currently, seven of the 137 children enrolled at Susanna Wesley are assisted by the BEST program.

The Susanna Wesley School serves youngsters ages 2 to 5, and is located at the Huntington United Methodist Church on Walnut Tree Hill Road in Shelton.

Increasing access

During his visit, Malloy met with students, school faculty and business leaders. He went inside a few classrooms, watched students give a short musical presentation, spoke with teachers, and briefly met in private with people involved in supporting the BEST program.

“Too many kids in Connecticut don’t have access to early childhood education,” said Malloy, noting youngsters without such education have trouble catching up with their peers as they advance through the school system.

The new state budget would fund 1,200 more preschool slots around the state, targeting the help to those with limited incomes. Malloy said initiatives involving public-private sector partnerships such as BEST are good way to assist more youngsters.

Elisa Uhrynowski of Shelton, who teaches 3-year-olds at the Susanna Wesley School, said BEST was “a wonderful program that helps kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to have a good education at a young age. It’s good for our community.”