“Are our kids dirt?” Catherine Lawson asked. “We want to know: who made the decision, and are they qualified to make this decision?”
Lawson (pictured), a parent at the Dwight Early Childhood Learning Center, posed that question Tuesday night to the Board of Education.
She and parents of other children enrolled in the New Haven Daycare Program showed up to the Board of Ed meeting to register their outrage over a decision announced May 14 that the Dwight center and the daycare center at Immanuel Baptist Church will close June 30.
Parents at the board meeting Tuesday night expressed concerns about being finding new places to send their children, having their children switch schools multiple times within a few months, and the short period of notice they were given about school closures. Lawson called the way the Board of Ed handled the school closing “deplorable” and said that the parents of children at the center were “slighted.”
Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries responded to Lawson’s comment and parents’ requests that the decision be reconsidered.
“I’m very clear on the decision, and I made that decision,” he said. He explained that The New Haven Daycare Program, while providing valuable services, ran too steep a deficit to continue. The Board of Ed is finding the children government-subsidized spots at private daycare centers.
“I understand your passion – I absolutely do, and it was a hard decision,” Harries said. “But that said, the deficit that this program operated under that had to do with the model of the program and the union that was in question … meant that we were running a deficit this year that’s projected at over half a million dollars for just 50 students. That’s $10,000 a student.”
Harries (pictured at the meeting with Mayor Toni Harp) said the school system is trying to make sure that the students at these centers find other care providers after these centers shut down. As of Tuesday, 12 of 18 infants and toddlers have confirmed spaces in a community-based program and 10 of 29 pre-K students have spots at other schools.
Because of fiscal challenges, he inevitably had to make tough decisions, Harries said; ultimately, a deficit takes resources away from other students in the city.
Parent Andrea Hutchison (pictured) complained that she was surprised by the closure news on May 14.
“We should have a say, because we’re the ones that voted you into office,” Hutchison said to cheers from other parents in the crowd. “The media calls us ‘angry parents,’ and that’s because we have every right to be angry: You come to the community to get voted in, so come to the community to talk to us. We’re going to talk back and, you may not like what we have to say, but at least we can be heard.”
After the meeting, Harries said the board started publicly discussing the daycare closures back in January. Mayor Harp held a meeting with concerned parents last week, and plans to hold another meeting with both them and Harries this Friday afternoon.
“We should have a say, because we’re the ones that voted you into office,” Hutchison said to cheers from other parents in the crowd.
Unfortunately we REALLY didn’t vote Garth into his position. It’s kinda like George Bush’s second term, we the people REALLY didn’t vote him in again but the governor of Florida (BOE president) would like you to believe you did. Just keep drinking the Meadow St Kool-Aid at the expense of our kids future and the teachers’ union.
posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on May 28, 2014 12:53pm
The way this closing was handled is “deplorable”. The officers of The Immanuel Baptist Church were informed of the imminent closure of this Day Care at least 6 months ago. As we have nothing to do with the actual running of the center, besides renting the space, we were never involved with the parents and rightfully left the flow of information about its operation up to the Day Care Staff and the School Distict who were responsible for it.
I was shocked to discover just two weeks ago that the parents had NOT been informed by the staff or the District that the Day Care would be closed in June, and I was also shocked to learn that the staff had been told that the the Day Care would be moved, but not that it would be closed and that the entire staff would lose their jobs.
As is normal for these kind of stories where this publication does the bidding of the city and its subsidaries, there are detailed qoutes to justify the Superintendent’s decision to close the Day Care. The NHI reporter failed, however, to focus AT ALL on the fact that there is no explaination as to why they waitied so long to inform the parents whose lives are significantly disrupted by this relatively and unnecessarily late information.
The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee Immanuel Baptist Church New Haven, CT
posted by: tERROT on May 28, 2014 2:07pm
Taxes in NH are sky-high. No way to justify $500,000.00 for a program that covers only 50 kids.
posted by: middle on May 28, 2014 3:07pm
The deficit was $500,000.00. The actual cost was much higher.
posted by: connecticutcontrarian on May 28, 2014 3:21pm
How is it that this was a “sudden decision” when the Blake Street space had already been allocated to house the new Booker T. Washington Charter School run by Varick Church? Certainly a school that’s planning to open the Fall could only do so if it had ample time to either build or convert an existing space. It’s clear that these charter school corporations had worked out a deal with the Mayor and Superintendent to displace families in favor of subsidizing yet another charter school. I’m disgusted for these families.
posted by: robn on May 28, 2014 3:32pm
CT law requires one staff member per ten children in daycare. So even if they rented 2000 sf of prime space downtown at $20/ft, that would be $40K annual rent. Double that for utilities and overhead. $400K is leftover for the five staff members req’d to take care of 50 kids. Is it at all possible that this program was paying $80K per staff member? Where was this money going? I’d love to hear more about the “union” issue.
posted by: David S Baker on May 28, 2014 4:23pm
I hope this cut will reduce my taxes slightly so I can better afford the daycare I currently pay for out of pocket.
Good job Garth. Stand your ground.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 28, 2014 4:40pm
Maybe the million dollar bribe for votes that good all Dan Malloy gave for the Q House could be used to help these parents.
posted by: Don in New Haven on May 28, 2014 9:21pm
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signs Public Acts No. 14-39 and 14-41 expanding pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds and establishing the Office of Early Childhood at the Helen Street School in Hamden Wednesday.
posted by: Blue on May 29, 2014 4:41pm
Deficit? That’s easy to fix. Cut some of the many, many fat cats loose ... You know, all those useless department heads, assistant directors, et al. They make $100k plus each and they work out of Gateway, which is not a school.
posted by: Ravenclaw on May 30, 2014 2:17pm
The 1:10 ratio is for school-aged children. For those under age 3, the rule is a 1:4 ratio. For those ages 3 - 5, I think it’s 1:6. So if you have, say, 20 in the infant/toddler group and 30 in the preschooler group, then you’d need 10 staff members - assuming nobody ever gets sick or takes a vacation. In truth, 12 is more realistic. If they’re paid $30K per year on average and other payroll costs add 50% to that, then you’re talking $540K for staff alone. Then you add rent, maintenance, food, play equipment. I expect the BoE managed to squander some money here, but day care costs more than most people want to believe.