Stanley Preschool, one of the oldest preschools in Chatham, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 

When the school first opened its doors in 1969, Stanley Preschool was located in Stanley Congregational Church on the corner of Oliver Street and Fairmount Avenue in Chatham Borough. The need for a new preschool was clear, due to the limited number of preschools in the area that were overcrowded. The first year, Stanley Preschool enrolled 33 children in two classrooms. The school grew over the years but always kept true to its philosophy of learning through play.

Today, Stanley is located at 240 Southern Boulevard (its location since 2016) and has more than 100 children in 11 classes. The school offers preschool programs for children ages 2½ to 5, kindergarten enrichment programs for children attending half-day public kindergarten, and a range of additional programs that expose children to science, technology, engineering and math and creative arts.

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Marie Nealis is the director, and Barbara Boos is the registrar/office manager. They lead the school along with a board of directors made up of dedicated parent volunteers. 

Stanley Preschool has grown and changed over the years, but its core values and approach to education – letting children learn through play – have remained the constant. As it has since its inception, Stanley Preschool seeks to provide an atmosphere that fosters positive self-esteem, a life-long enthusiasm for learning, and a respect for the cultures and values of others. 

The school instills a sense of community and pride that is passed down through generations. Five members of the current staff have been at Stanley Preschool for more than 25 years and seven for more than 20 years, with many of them watching their own children (and in some cases, grandchildren) go through the school as well.

As Cindy Viola said, “I loved Stanley so much when my kids went to school here that I just couldn’t say goodbye when they graduated. My solution to that was joining the amazing staff and becoming one of them. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

It is not only staff that carries on the Stanley tradition with their own children, as alumni continue to return to Stanley Preschool, dropping off their own children to the same preschool they attended years ago. 

As Stanley Preschool approaches its 50th anniversary, Nealis shares what makes the school such a special place: "Stanley Preschool has been my home away from home for the past 20 years. The Stanley staff, children, families and Barbara Boos are a big part of my life. We all work together to give our children what they need most – love, kindness and respect. For 50 years, Stanley has been preparing children for life, academically, but most important socially and emotionally. We all have such fond memories of our time at Stanley Preschool". 

Registration has begun for the 2019-20 school year. Contact Marie at 973-635-0755 to schedule a tour and experience the warm and nurturing environment at Stanley Preschool.

More information can be found on the website at