The Millbrook Early Childhood Education Center (MECEC) wants children to fall in love with learning. At MECEC children become active, engaged learners who take joy and satisfaction in "learning for learning's sake".

Our teachers cultivate the children's willingness to meet new challenges and to become respectful, caring friends of the school community and the world beyond.

In working with young children, we believe in the importance of play and discovery. We encourage the mastery of all the essential skills while cultivating strong and affirming friendships.

MECEC 's strong commitment to early childhood celebrates the whimsy, enthusiasm and joy that young children bring to their play and work.

We Promote:

  • A safe environment that nourishes and attends to the needs of the whole child.
  • Strong and affirming friendships to include values of empathy, collaboration, community and appreciation for differences.
  • Respect for the necessary balance of play and work in a child's school experience.
  • Strong working relationships between the home and school.

The History

MECEC opened its doors as a half day preschool in the fall of 2007 for children ages two, three and four. MECEC was granted a License from the New York Department of Education to offer full day preschool programs in January 2008 and full day programs commenced in the fall of 2008.

The Center welcomes children from many different backgrounds irrespective of nationality, race, religion or income. This enables parents and children alike to benefit from the rich diversity of the school.

MECEC was founded when the Hayes preschool in Millbrook was forced to close its doors due to financial insolvency. Hayes had run a full service preschool for over 25 years ultimately serving over 70 children. Considered one of the best in the county, Hayes offered full and half-day programs, inclusion programs for children taking part in the county's early intervention services, as well as a host of special needs programs.

When Hayes School closed, a group of Hayes parents approached donors. They drew attention to the enormous economic and social costs to individuals, families and the community when all of the Hayes programs they had relied on were no longer available. Seed funds were raised and MECEC was formed with the express purpose of building a high quality preschool to replace the wide range of programs and services that had been offered through Hayes.


To ensure that the implementation of MECEC's curriculum would be executed to the highest standards, MECEC immediately contracted the start up of its center to Astor's Dr. James McGuirk, Executive Director, and Mrs. Mary Sontheimer, Assistant Executive Director. Astor is one of the largest and most experienced providers of early childhood education programs in New York State and an experienced High Scope Curriculum educator.

For curriculum guidance, the MECEC board approached Nobel Laureate, James Heckman of the University of Chicago, a leading expert in the field of early childhood education. Founder and Director of The Consortium of Early Childhood Education, Prof. Heckman has gathered data from every major longitudinal study ever undertaken on early childhood education in the United States. Prof. Heckman's consortium has examined forty years of outcomes from these studies to identify the core programmatic and environmental factors in the preschool years which positively correlate with character development, academic achievement and skill formation as well as quality of life and productivity during the life of the subjects.

Prof. Heckman welcomed the MECEC/Astor founding team to Chicago in December 2006 where he recommended the much lauded High Scope Perry Preschool Program which coincidentally is the cornerstone of the Astor preschool programs in Dutchess County. The Center's curriculum has consequently been founded on the fundamentals of the High Scope Perry Preschool Program and will be tailored annually to reflect best practice findings derived from Prof. Heckman's Consortium on early childhood development.