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Parents ask district to keep childcare services

Submitted by on 1, August 11, 2010 – 5:00 am4 Comments

Families packed City Hall on Tuesday night to beg the school board not to shutter Woodstock Child Development Center and other childcare services on which they rely. Woodstock offers subsidized child care for low income families and fee-based care for others who can pay.

The board asked district staff to look at how they can keep the program open for an additional 45 days while families and staff research other care options for as many as 150 toddlers and school age children that would have been served at the center and two elementary school sites, Ruby Bridges and Henry Haight.

“I want to apologize to all of your families, because I do not think this is the way to handle this. We need to work together as a community to solve this problem,” said Trustee Trish Herrera Spencer, who offered her personal cell phone number and district e-mail address to parents and said she wants to hold a public meeting with them in an effort to help them get the care they need.

Board Vice President Mike McMahon said he didn’t want to create false hopes that the programs will stay open.

“It is clear that we don’t have the money to do this program,” McMahon said.

McMahon said the closure plans shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone on the board because the district laid off all the staff serving the childcare programs, though he did say the district could have done a better job communicating the impending cuts to the community. But Hererra Spencer said she believed the district had been working toward a solution for parents who need them.

Assistant Superintendent Sean McPhetridge told the board the district has to eliminate subsidized childcare services for toddlers and school age children at the end of the month because they aren’t sure the state will pay for the services this coming year. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting funding for the services, though legislative Democrats said they want to preserve them.

Other problems: The Navy, which owns the property that houses Woodstock and Island High School, is now planning to charge the school district utility and sewage costs at the site that district officials estimate at around $14,000 a month. And district officials said they’ve got an unpaid vacation balance of $160,000 due to the programs’ staff.

But at-times tearful parents said they can’t afford private care and have had little success finding care they can afford. About a dozen parents, many of them single mothers, made their way to the podium, children in tow, to ask the board to find a way to keep their childcare – particularly the center, which some said was like a second family – in place.

“I have been calling private preschools, and there is no way I will be able to afford to keep my daughter in preschool. I will have to quit my job if this program is shut down,” Amanda Porter said. “Please, there has to be something you guys can do.”

Porter said her two children are at Woodstock and that she planned to put her older child in the district’s before- and after-school program when they enter kindergarten in the fall.

Mahogany Baptiste said that when she learned the before- and after-school program at Haight was closing, she started making calls in an effort to find care for her son. A separate care program offered at Haight and other elementary schools serving largely low-income families doesn’t offer the before-school care Baptiste needs in order to get to work on time, she said. And the Alameda Park and Recreation Department’s after-school program only operates if a certain number of children sign up.

Baptiste, a single mother, said she too will have to quit her job if she can’t find care.

“I couldn’t survive on welfare,” she said.

Woodstock director Carol Barton notified parents of the planned program closures at the end of July. Vital said the district had been working to prepare for the closures since May, though they were hopeful a state budget with funding for them would materialize by now.

The state subsidizes childcare for low-income parents, and those who earn little enough to qualify pay a fee based on their income. The district paid out if its own general fund to maintain the program over the summer, but Vital said the board would have to come up with around $900,000 to keep it open for the next year unless the state budget contains money for it.

McPhetridge said the district will have the money to continue its preschool program, which will serve 100 children ages 3-5. And he said district officials will try to find ways to recreate lost childcare programs, potentially on the district’s elementary school campuses.

The board is expected to vote on recommendations for Woodstock and the Haight and Bridges care programs at its August 24 meeting. Chief Business Officer Robert Shemwell said keeping the programs open for another 45 days could cost the district about $60,000.

Woodstock has been open since 1943. It serves around 200 children between the ages of 18 months and 11 years old, according to the district’s website.


  • David Howard says:

    Based on the photo alone, which may or may not be a fair representation, I might hazard a guess to say that the program has a disproportionate number of African-American and Asian participants. Will Ann Debardaleben and parents at the primarily white elementary school (Edison: 71% white enrollment) step up and offer to consolidate their school with another in Alameda so that the resultant cost savings might help keep this program going? What about Franklin? (54% white) Otis? (51% white) It may take the consolidation of more than one small elementary school to save this program.

  • Earl Richards says:

    Chevron gouged $24 billions in excessive profits in 2008, as per http://www.tyrannyofoil.com. Schwarzenegger should put an excessive profits tax on these profits, instead of protecting the oil corporations from fair taxation, then, there would be sufficient public funds for all the vulnerable, people programs. Big business lost the fight to eliminate domestic violence funding, so now they are coming back with a vengeance. There is no funding provision for battered women shelters in the May Revise. Schwarzee picks on the most vulnerable and not on corporate tax “deadbeats.”

  • Caroline Topee' says:

    After attending and speaking at this meeting, I’m a single parent scrambling to find affordable Before and After school care and worried about the Before/After School Care that was unique to this program and may not work if this program is NOT saved. I met with parents of my daughter’s classmate known since Preschool and attended Haight kindergarten. They wondered why I was at City Hall and I told them I tried tell them via old contact information that WCDC is going to be closed if the board decides on 8/24. They were shocked and said they were not notified of this closure. They are full paying parents! For whatever reasons that not all WCDC parents were notified is now becoming very clear that information is not being properly communicated. I suggested bridge funding to the board and I hope that they decide in favor of the 45 day extension. I went to the Town Hall Meeting with Congressman Pete Stark and referenced the oil corporations to pay an extraction fee to the state of California or BP Oil spill restitution should be spread to all US states as BP is doing business in US territory. Trying every way possible to save this valuable program is now my mission. I want to tell the entire island that this is a crisis and that we need to find funding or a way to save this program in less than 15 days before school starts for Fall! 10,000 other students are enough to worry about, but losing more revenue to the city and to the state if parents lose their jobs due to no adequate child care will have even worse consequences. If they can this keep program afloat, I can keep working so I can maybe contribute more of my income to the program. The budget needs to get signed by Governor Schwarzenggener so this program can be saved. Alameda residents and parents, please contact your legislators:

    State Assembly Members:
    Sandre’ Swanson, Oakland 510-286-1670
    Nancy Skinner, Oakland 510-286-1400

    State Senators:
    Ellen Corbett, San Leandro 510-577-2310
    Loni Hancock, Oakland 510-286-1333

    Thank you.

  • Anne DeBardeleben says:

    Mr. Howard, just to set things straight, my children are 21 and 24 years old . My daughter attended Chipman and Encinal where she not only received an incredible education but made remarkable friendships. We moved to Alameda in the middle of her 7th grade so she did not have the advantage of attending elementary school at AUSD.

    Also, I don’t have to rely on the photo; I attended the BOE meeting and personally witnessed the hardships these families are going through. These cuts are happening because the state will not commit funds for the WCDC program and AUSD does not have the funding to cover the program.

    In accordance with Plan B, school closures are scheduled for 2011-12 and 2012-13. The plan for these closures will be discussed in the upcoming BOE meetings. Even if it were logistically possible to close schools to save this program, at a savings of $200k-$300k per school, it would take consolidating approx 6 schools into 3 to save WCDC. This would need to be done in addition to the closures already needed to make up for the cuts AUSD will receive over the next 3 years.

    I do agree with Caroline Topee that it appeared parents were not advised of closures in the manner the board directed. Though it certainly isn’t a long term solution, I was pleased the board granted a 45 day delay to give parents more time to try to find a solution. I will be contacting our Assemblymen and State Senator to stress the importance of funding these programs as the costs, monetarily and socially, of not funding them are far to great. I will encourage others to do so as well.

    To make it clear, I will be working hard to pass a parcel tax in the spring. I believe all Alameda students deserve the best education we can provide them. Consolidation saves money, but it raises class size to a level preventing teachers to give the students the one-on-one care they deserve. If we are unable to pass a parcel tax in the spring, consolidations will occur in every area in Alameda affecting all our students.

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