Education has had Coffey's attention most of her life, beginning with her own studies. She earned a bachelor's degree in social work at Eastern Kentucky University, a master's degree in home economics and early childhood education and a teaching certificate for kindergarten at UK. She also earned a Rank I in curriculum instruction from UK, a specialist degree in 1991 (60 hours above a master's degree) in early childhood special education.
"I was learning what I got to implement while I was working in Frankfort," said Coffey.
She has been most challenged by work at West Casey County Family Resource Center and her part with reopening the local hospital after it was closed for deficiencies in operation.
"Funding has been cut and we get less money per child than we did in 1991," said Coffey. Keeping the program going and meeting the needs of the families is always a challenge, she said.
Since health services was a mandated component with the Family Resource Center, Coffey helped to reopen the hospital for referrals for health services. She volunteered on the hospital board for three years in the early 1990s which she called a "nightmare."
"Access to hospital care was in a crisis state," said Coffey. "I was interested in getting the (health) services reopened because it related to my job."
With the help of Coffey's skills to write grants and many other volunteers, the hospital was reopened a year later.
"I'm so proud of the services we have now and of all the people who worked to see our citizens have health care locally. As far as I know, the local hospital is the only small hospital in the United States to close then reopen. The key to the reopening was to get a Primary Care Center in operation." "It is really a challenge to create child care services and get them licensed," said Coffey. The local services have meet three of the levels of licensing and to qualify for the fourth, they have to be nationally accredited, which is expensive. She hopes work will continue toward the fourth level.
Day care licensed for 76 children
The day care is licensed for 76 children in per-kindergarten and school age programs, which are support programs for families.
Coffey thinks that preparing children before they begin school is important. She stresses the importance of reading to children. Singing, learning rhymes and math skills before kindergarten helps children when they enter school.
The school-operated day care personnel help other day cares in the county so that all kids have quality learning experiences.
It's like building a house, if the foundation is not strong and sturdy, other things will be weak, she said.
Coffey said funding is always a problem with the programs.
"With finances the way they are in small school districts, we have to go after money in other places," she said. That means applying for grants to help with day care services offered after school hours, during summers, spring and fall breaks and even snow days.
"It's not an eight to three job, we're open all year long," she said. Hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"I haven't had any significant time off in the past 20 years," Coffey said. "We even do our own janitor and clerical work."
Bastin is new coordinator
Now that Coffey is retiring, she will leave her work to Samantha Bastin, new coordinator; June Morgan, who has been child care director for 14 years; and Michelle Wethington, assistant director.
When Coffey leaves, more changes are in store for the Casey Family Services Centers.
Jennifer Godbey will be coordinator of East Casey Family Services for Liberty Elementary and the new Jones Park school; and Bastin will be coordinator of the west center that will combine Phelps, Phillips and Douglas elementaries at the proposed elementary on Walnut Hill. Both will be operated from the Liberty office.
Coffey may end her career as an educator, but she will not end her interest in young children. "Times are more stressful for families, teachers and children," she said. "I worry that we are taking away the children's' childhood, forcing too much too soon."