culture 
culture

EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK | culture

Culture is the character and personality of an organization. It’s what makes a business unique and is a combination of our core values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes. A company’s culture shows itself in the way they treat their customers, partners (vendors, subcontractors), and each other.

At First Circle, we don’t just talk about our mission and values, we live them. We make it our top priority to create a warm and friendly environment. We want you to feel welcome, included, respected, and safe. We hope you will make families and children feel that way here.

We work hard to foster a positive, fun, and happy work environment. We hope you can learn, grow, and thrive here.

We appreciate you. We support our staff with competitive compensation, generous benefits, growth opportunities, teamwork, work-life balance, opportunities for creativity, management help, great swag, and fun stuff! We’re proud of our long-term staff.

Our story

First Circle was founded in 1997 by Charlie Marcotty and Marcy Smith Lee. They met in 1987, working together in nonprofit educational administration. After a decade of loving their work collaboration, they were both ready to move on professionally and start their own families.

When a friend retired from her established early childhood center in Lexington, Charlie and Marcy saw an opportunity to continue to work together to make a difference in the world. Their goal was to create a high-quality early childhood program and workplace based on their core values.

Charlie and Marcy both had two children who graduated from the program for kindergarten and then returned as employees. In 2022, Marcy retired to spend more time with family and travel. Charlie continues to be actively involved in the daily program.

Our history

In 1997, Charlie and Marcy formed Idris, Inc. and acquired the program called Care-a-Lot Child Care Center and Lexington International Preschool. Idris is the Latin word for knowledge, wisdom, and experience. After completing extensive renovations and upgrades, they renamed the program First Circle Learning Center. By 2015, First Circle had its first waitlist.

In 2019, First Circle acquired the Kiddie Lodge in Framingham. Started in 1955 in a large homestead/barn built in the 1840s, the previous owners brought the Kiddie Lodge to the highest state quality level, QRIS 4.

In 2021, First Circle acquired Hugs Plus in Stoughton, a high-quality program for 30 years.

In 2023, First Circle acquired Chestnut Children’s Center in Needham, a well-known early childhood education program for 27 years. 

Education is the principal goal of Idris, Inc., Idris II, Inc., Idris III, Inc., and Idris IV, Inc., the Massachusetts-based corporations doing business as First Circle Learning Centers.

What sets us apart?

25+ years educating the next generation:
  • We’ve been bringing families together since 1997. We’re proud of our close-knit community and long-term staff.
Warm and friendly is what we do best:
  • Everything we do focuses on creating a warm and friendly community where families and staff feel welcome, included, respected, and safe.
Our unique curriculum:
  • We created our proprietary curriculum to incorporate research into how young children learn best and exceed the Massachusetts state standards.
Our educators are experts in helping children grow and learn:
  • We pride ourselves on our hundreds of years of early learning experience under one roof! We develop the whole child, encourage lifelong learning, and ready children for kindergarten and beyond.

Meet our team

Lines of authority

First Circle Learning Centers are licensed by the Department of Early Education & Care (EEC). All our policies and procedures adhere to EEC regulations. You can see a copy of the regulations in the office. First Circle undergoes an extensive relicensing and review process every 2 years and is subject to periodic unannounced visits from our licensor at any time.

Executive Admin

Leadership Team

CHARLIE MARCOTTY, Co-Founder and President
  • Charlie oversees all aspects of the program, including the educational program, administration, finances, operations, staff supervision, and support of families and children. Charlie supervises the director, business manager, human resources manager, and director of operations.
LIZ SMITH, Business Manager
  • Liz manages all financial and office operations for First Circle Learning Centers. She collaborates with the executive director and director of operations.
STEPHANIE MONTERROSO, Executive Director
  • Stephanie oversees staff management, health and safety, and family management and enrollment. Stephanie supervises all site directors and works in collaboration with executive admin team.
KIM LOCICERO, Director of Operations
  • Kim is responsible for curriculum, operational processes and systems, marketing and recruitment, and helps support families and children. Kim collaborates with the entire executive admin team and supervises the operations assistants.
JENN HICKEY, Human Resources Manager
  • Jenn serves as the “ear” of the organization, representing the voice of all employees. She is responsible for benefit management and HR compliance and consults with the admin team on all aspects of the employee experience.

Support Team

AMY BRAZIL and CHRISSY BREWER, Operations Assistants
  • Chrissy and Amy support Kim in operations and site administration across all First Circle locations. They manage front-end recruitment tasks, the voucher process, marketing and data analysis tasks, as well as being on-site support when needed.
HEATHER FABIANO, Curriculum Coordinator
  • Heather provides mentoring and modeling in classrooms, helping with the implementation of curriculum, and providing support and resources to classrooms. 

Program Administration

DIRECTOR
  • The director oversees and manages all aspects of their site’s program, including the educational program, administration, operations, staff supervision, and support of families and children. The director reports to the executive director.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
  • The assistant director supports the director in the oversight and management of all aspects of the program, including the educational program, administration, operations, staff supervision, and support of families and children. The assistant director reports to the director.
OFFICE MANAGER
  • The office manager supports site administration by managing administrative duties to keep the site running efficiently and smoothly. This position is split between classroom duties and office duties.

Educators

TEACHER
  • Teachers at First Circle are EEC certified. They share responsibility for classroom management and the educational program with a co-teacher and are permanently assigned in a classroom. Teachers supervise classroom assistants and model teaching skills, style, and professionalism. Teachers are supported, supervised, and reviewed by the director.
TEAM SUPPORT
  • Team support are EEC certified as teachers. They may be temporarily assigned to a classroom or float daily between different classrooms. Team support members are responsible for implementing the curriculum developed by the classroom teacher. They are supported, supervised, and reviewed by the director.
CLASSROOM ASSISTANT
  • Classroom assistants are not EEC certified. They may be permanently assigned to a classroom, or float between different classrooms. Assistants are responsible for supporting the implementation of the classroom teacher’s curriculum. Classroom assistants are always supervised and are directed by the classroom and/or floating teacher(s). Assistants are never left unattended with children, and do not administer First Aid or medication. Assistants are supported, supervised, and reviewed by the director.
DESIGNATED TEACHER
  • EEC regulations require that in the temporary absence of the director, we inform all staff on duty who is responsible for administration of the center and appoint a designee who is on the premises while it is in operation. The designee must meet the qualifications of a teacher but does not need to be lead-teacher or director certified, and if the director is absent more than 3 days, will be scheduled in the office. The designee assists the administrative staff to ensure the daily schedule is correct and supports them in the office as needed. The designated teacher is required to advise and work with the administrative team in the event of an emergency or an issue that impacts the program.

Mission, vision, values, and standards

OUR MISSION AND VISION​

A MISSION STATEMENT is why we are in business. Our mission is to make a difference by compassionately helping people – both big and small – to learn, grow, and thrive.

A VISION STATEMENT is a company’s road map, stating what we want to become and setting a direction for the company’s growth. Our vision is to be a recognized leader in providing high-quality early childhood education to make a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of as many families, children, and staff as we can.

our core values: what we believe in​

CORE VALUES describe how we want all First Circle personnel to behave and the mindset we need to achieve our company vision.
We infuse all our policies, decisions, communication, and actions with our core values. They are:

RESPECT

We value respecting everyone’s abilities, limits, feelings, values, backgrounds, perspectives, and privacy.

INTEGRITY

We value integrity, acting in an ethical, fair, and transparent manner.

GROWTH

We value growth as a lifelong journey, that learning from challenges helps achieve our greatest potential.

FLEXIBILITY

We value flexibility, creating options in our policies and practices to support our families and staff.

EXCELLENCE

We value excellence, and going above and beyond the highest standards in everything we do.

our professional standards: who we are​

STANDARDS define what our customers and team can expect. To ensure our program remains the high-quality program we pride ourselves on, First Circle’s standards guide how we approach both families and staff, and remind us of the obligations we have to our families, our co-workers, and ourselves. Our professional standards guide our work environment and our program standards direct our work. Our professional standards are:

WELCOMING

We are an open-door program that warmly welcomes children, families, and staff.

PROFESSIONAL

We are skilled early childhood professionals with high standards.

SAFE

We are safe and secure, with trained and experienced staff, and an open layout.

CARING

We are caring and nurturing in our actions, thoughts, and words.

RESPONSIVE

We actively listen, respond, and provide effective solutions.

our program standards: what we do​

Our program standards are the guidelines and commitment that outline what families and our co-workers can expect from our program. Our professional standards are:

EDUCATE

Learning is the heart of what we do. Our curriculum educates the whole child while respecting individual learning style and pace.

PLAY

We teach children through play because they learn best when active and engaged.

PARTNER

We partner with parents, staff, children, and the community to build trust and achieve shared goals.

SUPPORT

We support each person’s unique needs and goals with sensitivity and flexibility.

READY

We ready children for their next steps, preparing them for future success in school and life.

Expectations

What we expect from you

Job performance

Every First Circle job has a description. Your specific job description is at the end of this handbook. It is extremely important that you be familiar with it. It defines your specific duties, and serves as the basis for your performance review. In summary, we expect you to:

  • Support our culture by upholding First Circle’s mission, vision, core values, and professional/program standards.
  • Work your schedule, be punctual, be flexible, and show up to earn your compensation.
  • Comply with all state regulations and First Circle policies and procedures.
  • Create connections with your coworkers and families, and promote home-school partnerships.
  • Have regular, respectful, and open communication with children, families, and coworkers.
  • Implement First Circle’s curriculum and daily program and create learning opportunities throughout the day.

Professionalism

We CHOSE YOU to be part of our team and we’re rooting for you to be with us for the long term. We’re committed to supporting you and helping you take the next steps in your career. And we ask you to commit to being professional.

Being professional is about attitude, conduct, and presenting yourself with self-respect and dignity. It means having a willingness to learn, cooperating and getting along with others, showing respect, and living up to your commitments. It also means avoiding behaviors that create difficulties in the workplace. By asking you to join our team, we expect you will adhere to our professional standards. That includes:

  • following First Circle policies and procedures as outlined in your job description and this Employee Handbook
  • arriving to work with and maintaining a positive attitude each day
  • being a team player by contributing your fair share of responsibilities and maintaining a balance of workload among colleagues
  • participating in and contributing to meetings and discussions
  • managing your time well, passing in paperwork on time, giving notice for absences, arriving on time ready for the first child
  • remaining flexible with classroom assignments and schedule—expecting the unexpected, pinch hitting for a team member in need
  • staying alert about health and safety matters—ensuring the safety of equipment, washing and sanitizing toys and surfaces, managing illness
  • accepting, using, and providing feedback to improve your work
  • proactively looking for ways to improve the program, offering solutions to problems, and resisting the urge to complain or communicate in a negative manner
  • communicating professionally with others and avoiding gossip and/or negative interactions with coworkers
  • participating in social events/activities outside regular hours
  • presenting a clean, healthy, professional appearance

While conducting yourself in the ways listed above does not guarantee you won’t have issues with your co-workers, if we all conduct ourselves in these ways, we’ll be close to our goal of a workplace that is respectful, nurturing, professionally rewarding, and fun!

What you can expect from us

APPRECIATION: We value the role of early childhood educators who help to make a difference in the world. Our staff is the heart of what we do. We do everything possible to provide a culture based on good communication, teamwork, values, and fun!

TEAMWORK: Our structure is based on collaborative co-teaching teams. We give teachers support and the tools they need to succeed, like floating teachers for classroom support and time off.

COMMUNICATION: We work hard to make every communication honest, friendly, and compassionate. We believe open communication builds a better team. We encourage you to share feedback, ideas, and suggestions with us and to ask questions.

COLLABORATIVE LEADERSHIP: We know what it’s like to work in an environment where management is critical, unsupportive, and inflexible, where coworkers are cliquey, gossipy, and unfriendly. That’s why we do our best to provide you with flexibility, responsive communication, and a strong partnership.

GROWTH: We’re committed to your personal and professional growth. We offer opportunities for advancement, mentorship, and paid professional development.

CREATIVITY: As a teacher, we welcome you to personalize your classroom, lesson plans, and activities. We support our teachers with fully stocked classrooms and a generous classroom budget.

FEEDBACK: We really want to know what you think! Our tight-knit community of staff allows for open communication between staff and administration. We welcome your input, both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

FUN: We believe in laughing every day and building lifelong friendships. We love to spend time together outside school and make having fun one of our top priorities.

Equal opportunity employer

First Circle is an equal opportunity employer. We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities for all employees in all aspects of employment, to prevent unlawful discrimination or harassment of any individual working at First Circle, and to provide a mechanism for individuals to bring any concerns about discrimination or harassment to First Circle’s attention.

First Circle expects all individuals to treat each other with dignity and respect. We are committed to maintaining an environment in which employees are not subjected to different treatment because of legally protected characteristics and will not accept or tolerate any discrimination toward employees based upon the following characteristics: race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, gender, gender expression or identity, pregnancy, marital status, genetic background, disability or veterans’ status, ancestry, citizenship, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws.

Non-discrimination

As part of First Circle’s core values, we welcome and encourage diversity, multiculturalism, and anti-bias both in our student body and our staff. First Circle does not discriminate in its programs, activities, facilities, employment, or educational opportunities on the basis of any protected characteristic. This policy extends to, but is not limited to, recruitment, selection, compensation, benefits, promotion, training, and termination.

We seek to offer a respectful environment where harassment and intolerance are not allowed, and where differences in background, cultures, and abilities are celebrated.

Staff satisfaction + engagement

Reward + recognition

We know you are working hard on the job and at home so we recognize our team members for a variety of accomplishments: personal victories, big wins, extra effort, career achievements, healthy habits, and company milestones. Oh, and we just love to give company swag! At our monthly staff meetings, we choose a staff member as our Employee of the Month from nominations submitted by their peers. During the month, if you see someone giving a helping hand or you witness great work let them know by nominating them for Employee of the Month.

Feedback

As an organization that believes passionately in education and development, First Circle is committed to continuous improvement on all aspects of our programs. We welcome feedback from our families and staff, whether on our regular surveys, or in conversation with our administrative staff. Around the building, you’ll notice a QR code to submit anonymous and confidential feedback to our HR Manager. We can’t fix it if we don’t know about it. If you have an improvement to suggest, please let us know! Our ears are open!