The first day of kindergarten can be heart-rending and also ear-splitting. As nervous parents drop off their children for the first time, children often react with a cacophony of whines, cries, and tantrums. But in Homewood, Ala., one woman has found a way to reduce the feelings of abandonment and anxiety that create first-day stress.

Stacy Flippen, also known as the Sign Fairy, is a PTO member who has developed an idea that helps ease the tension for the newcomers. Flippen and the PTO welcome them before their first day of school with signs reading "Shades Cahaba Loves You! Welcome to Kindergarten!"

Flippen, a wife, mother of two, and owner of a children's clothing business, says her interest in smoothing the way into school started when she went to kindergarten orientation for her daughter, Anna Claire. "As a former kindergarten teacher, I know the types of problems you see when the children are anxious about going to school," says Flippen. "I felt like there needed to be something else to get them excited about school. I thought about what we could do at the beginning of their first year to get them pumped up about kindergarten."

At the time, a mayoral race was under way in Homewood. The campaign signs drew Flippen's attention, giving her the idea to use yard signs to welcome the new students. She thought about what to put on the signs and settled on "Shades Cahaba Loves You."

"What more do you need than that? That just says it all," Flippen says.

Challenge accepted! Concrete steps for a great start to the school year

Two weeks before the first day of school, she starts delivering her signs to the homes of kindergartners. She takes the signs with her on her early-morning walks and places them in families' yards. When the children wake up, they run outside to see whether their signs have arrived and are greeted by the message welcoming them to school. Flippen has had a lot of positive feedback.

One of Flippen's goals is to get parents to enroll their children earlier than the first day of school. The children don't get their yard signs until all their paperwork is filled out and turned in to the school. Because of the enormous excitement generated by the signs, among kindergartners and their parents alike, the elementary school has witnessed a sharp rise in early registration. This early enrollment has helped school administrators determine class size and the number of teachers needed for the school year.