At its next meeting, SRVUSD's Board of Education will vote to determine whether or not to accept changes to on-site childcare providers at three elementary schools. Following a selection and lease re-evaluation process several parents consider flawed, parent Dan Forest suggested that the school district may have violated the Brown Act.
The Brown Act states that the public has a right to attend and participate in local legislative meetings, which Forest felt included the selection of the childcare providers. Several board members felt that they couldn't move forward until addressing legal staff.
Seven elementary schools, whose childcare provider leases have expired or are set to expire, formed selection committees to determine need and efficacy of the current business. Consisting of the principal, one teacher, three parents who do not utilize daycare and two who do, the committees made the following recommendations to the board:
*Golden View Elementary: Recommends switching providers from The Growing Room to the YMCA
*Tassajara Hills Elementary: Recommends switching providers from The Growing Room to Kids' Country
*Twin Creeks Elementary: Recommends switching providers from The Growing Room to Kids' Country
*Creekside Elementary: Recommends staying with Kids' Country
*Alamo School: Recommends staying with the YMCA
*Rancho Romero Elementary: Recommends staying with the YMCA
*Neil Armstrong Elementary: Recommends staying with The Growing Room
Envisioning the switch from The Growing Room to Kid's Country has made parents uneasy. They questioned the reputation of the program considering it has hadfive violations of unattended children within the past few years and four of its care sites are currently on probation.
"I've spent 20,000 dollars plus at The Growing Room," said Joe Sharp, a father of a Tassajara Hills Elementary student. "Now we've got a committee telling us where to spend our dollars, we don't even know them."
Members were hand-selected by the principals and were asked to sign confidentiality forms in order to protect them from any undue inquiries. Toni Taylor, director of instruction, said committees were given as much time for deliberation as they needed.
"For whatever reason, the parents saw other providers as better meeting their needs. At the end of the day, the results need to be looked at, respected and honored," Superintendent Steven Enoch told the Express earlier this week. "Even if people don't like the result, I hope they will at least be appreciative of the process. At the end of the day these committees made recommendations based on everything they read, they saw, they heard."
The process to renew leases also included an electronic poll, available on Feb. 7, of parents at each of the seven schools with questions directed at the parents with children in existing childcare facilities. Out of the 4,948 surveys sent out only 608 parents responded.
Among parents that whose children attended The Growing Room, the provider received an 80 percent approval rating -- lower than both Kids' Country and the YMCA. But Shelley, a mother of three who has utilized the program, said losing The Growing Room would be like losing a family.
"I can tell you that in terms of average The Growing Room had one school that scored very high and one school that scored very low," Enoch said.
Parents said they felt like they didn't have an impact on the decision. Noting that the process was rushed, Rinta Perkins, a Tassajara Hills parent whose son also attends The Growing Room, presented the board with a petition with the signatures from 107 parents who oppose the change.
"Something was not remembered, that we've had existing childcare at each site. Did any of you have the input of picking those?" Board Clerk Rachel Hurd asked. "Unless any of you were at Creekside or Live Oak or one of the recent ones you probably didn't. I'd just like to defend the board and the district who brought this solution to us that we were attempting to look out for parents that didn't."
Despite disapproval and questions from parents in the audience, the board agreed that competition creates a healthy environment and change is due. District officials will accept the changes pending legal consultation of Brown Act elements.
"The only group that should win out of this process is the kids," said Vice-President Ken Mintz.