Monday, January 19, 2009

Inside the 4K Decision: Who Said What

We've realized over the last several years is that what this community lacks is the statements leading to a decision. Sure, our local newspaper captures the wonderful soliloquies; but what they DON'T share is that this decision, like many of its kind, came very suddenly and left a lot of concerns and questions on the table. Herein are the captured words that you didn't hear...unless you subscribe to Charter cable, of course. Captured in red are those items that were identified as concerns, yet never addressed by board motion.

We begin as board president Stackhouse opens the agenda item for board discussion. First up is Al Slane.

Al Slane:
"This proposal means a reduction in property taxes. However, moving forward, we need to cover start-up costs. I'd like to see this [program] cover the pool operating costs and [for us to] remove the [recently approved referendum] decision to exceed the revenue cap [for ongoing pool costs]. We need to look at the revenue cap without the 4K program and be sure that we're not raising taxes due to the extra kids."

Terry Shimek:
"I share Al [Slane]'s concerns. I'd like to have for the first 3 years an annual review to ensure that [state aid] revenues meet or exceed the projections. "

Jim McCourt:
"Long overdue. It has worlds of benefits. This is relatively revenue neutral. In fact, since it generates revenue, it's great. "

Caren Diedrich:
" The nutrition aspect is still a question for us. A 1/2 day program starts after breakfast and ends before lunch. Breakfast and lunch still have to be explored. Open enrollment...there are many aspects not in place...parents should look into it. If a child from a district with a 4K program (Marshall) and their parents bring them to daycare in Sun Prairie with its 4K program, can they do that? "

Jill Camber-Davidson:
" I have more questions now than I did [last]Monday. I'm still concerned about staffing with principals and discipline at daycare centers. How can we have authority in a [privately owned] daycare? I don't want to go into this too fast...I don't want to go into this without first working these issues out. [Camber-Davidson listed the following additional concerns]

  • Liability & Insurance - I want to see this
  • Meal services - questions answered...what are the costs?
  • Evaluation - How do we evaluate and catch issue when we don't own [the locations]?
  • Childcare Centers - What about child care centers in the community? I don't want to see any going out of business [as a result of this decision]."
Alice Murphy [Assistant District Administrator - Instructional Programs]:
" There are questions for which we haven't thought of answers...yet we are searching for them with our partners [the childcare centers] . We had a discussion regarding the discipline issue today. Evaluation lies with the district...clearly the district is in charge. We're looking at annual contracts...some [communities] do 3-year contracts. I'm relatively reassured... need to keep looking at this. "

Terry Shimek:
" Jill...what are you thinking? With the tight timeline [to implement the 4K program] do you want to defer board action tonight? "
[SP-EYE...Are you saying that you support such a vote, Terry...but just aren't bold enough to make it yourself?]

David Stackhouse:
" Should we consider waiting on this until these issues are addressed? "

Tim Culver District Administrator]:
" Transportation is a whole other issue. Issues are going to come up. I'm not sure we'll ever get all the answers. We need to have confidence that the system will allow things to be worked out."
[ advocating here!]

...and now the board breaks to hear Community input:

Wes Korenic [ Gingerbread House Childcare Administrator]:
" I have many questions that have not been answered. My insurance company has many questions that I cant get answered. I don't know what my costs will be and with this timeframe I feel like I'm going in blind. I contacted centers in Watertown, Stoughton, and Beaver Dam [all of which run 4K programs]. All say they are losing money. They are given $2500 per child and they are losing money. There are enormous volumes of paperwork required. Will I need to hire office help? Do I need to be competitive with wages? I am concerned about displacing teachers or having to cut their hours in order to hire a teacher and put this program in place. "

Korenic went on to indicate her preference that "Model 2" be implemented. Under Model 2, the school district would hire the teachers as their employees and send them out to the childcare centers to implement it.

Sharlot Bogart [ Teddy's Place Childcare Administrator]:
" The only way I feel we can work this out is to move forward. I have 3 teachers now working on their [requisite teaching] degree. With this funding we can pay our staff more."

Alice Murphy [Assistant District Administrator - Instructional Programs]:
[in response to questions from David Stackhouse] " We prefer Models 3 and 1. We will try to place kids where their parents want. Model 2 is not out of the question. "

...and now back to the board for motion and vote:

David Stackhouse:
" Understanding that it took 5 months for this plan does not mean it came suddenly. We've been looking at it [4 K] for 7 years. Our district administration isn't going to do anything without it being a big success. "

Caren Diedrich:
" We have several things in 2 motions: (1) adoption of the 4 K program, (2) approval of the budget and staffing, (3) authorize the district administrator to enter into contracts [with childcare centers], and (4) revise policy JC to cover 4K."

The vote: 6-1 to approve the motion and implement the 4K program, with Camber-Davidson voting against.

SP-EYE: Are you seeing "red" after seeing all the red? What kind of board votes to establish this kind of program with so many unanswered question on the table? Al Slane made some great suggestions to use the "profit" from 4K to cover pool costs and also to not exceed the revenue cap as was recently approved by referendum. Too bad nothing came of it. Why wasn't this made as a separate motion or r as an amendment to the motion made?

Does anyone else feel like perhaps the board could have tabled this items for 2 weeks...or even 4 weeks and allow time for district administration to work out some answers? Nope. They voted it and announced it to the public that we're having a 4K program THIS fall. Anyone else seeing the parallels of conducting business like this to the economic collapse?

It is important to point out that we do not believe that Jill Camber-Davidson's vote was in opposition to the CONCEPT of implementing a 4K program. We believe she was correctly voting against implementing the program at this moment in time given the unanswered questions that abound. That's what leaders do...they only support those programs that have been clearly reasoned out. We don't hear it often, so it's hard to recognize it when you do...but that would be a voice of reason you heard.