By Bernice Elizabeth Green
Thirty-two young faces beam down from the Wall of Fame at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Early Childhood Development Center, 971 DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. But that’s about all the beautiful art that will be left – except the students themselves. It’s no secret that day cares, head starts, public learning centers all over the city are closing or on their way to becoming ghost towns.
All during the spring, there were rumors and word of mouth about big changes to come. The axe dropped last Monday, July 16. Head Start Education Directors — who handle clusters of the 10 programs –hand-delivered to certain teachers confirming they would be moved to other locations by the following Monday, July 23. The administrative staffs that oversee the teachers were informed by phone not by an official memo, reported family aides.
“The teachers were told the classrooms should be broken down and then cleared of everything,” recalled Ms. Ramoutar, a Family Assistant for several years at the McDonough Street Head Start program where three teachers are being moved.
“Bottom line, they made these abrupt decisions without thinking about the children,” said Nataya Lopez, mother of a four-year-old who attends McDonough Head Start. “They should have been considered first because they are the ones who are impacted the most.”
“My issue is not the teachers staying where they are,” she continued. “I understand they have to be shared around. But why not wait until school starts up again, so the children won’t need to readjust to a new teacher before the end of summer. These are small children; it makes no sense.”
On Tuesday, as social media flashed the message to parents, teachers at the BSECDC Head Start at 971 DeKalb Avenue, full of questions, dismantled artwork, calendars, furnishings — all that was a colorful testament to a well-run day care center. “They had to do this while the children were still here and still doing activities,” said Leslie Reid, grandmother of a 4-year-old atMcDonough Street. “It’s not fair.”
“Did anyone consider the affect on the children as they see people they love and who they know love them, packing up,” asked another angry parent. “It’s like the rug is being pulled right from under them. There’s no regard for transitioning at all.”
“Imagine the world shifting around you as you watch helpless,” said another. “How can you suddenly put the learning and the lives of 32 children on hold? We need answers!”
Tuesday, at BSECDC, fired-up and fed-up parents, gathered at the office with a ton of questions, then a phoned retraction came in: teachers would not be leaving on Monday (23), but they would be expected to leave sometime soon.
971 is one of the most successful programs with full enrollment, excellent participation by parents, a constant 95% to 100% attendance by children. “So if student attendance and parental involvement are important to operating a strong school,” cried one parent, “why would you take the teachers out?”
But she knew the answer: the forces “have been trying to close 971 for years,” said a parent at another site.
Of the 31 years Ms. McKinney has lived in the neighborhood, she’s devoted 22 to volunteering as an aide at the center. “We are family, and the children know it. They feel safe and comfortable. And when they walk in here the room says, ‘Welcome.’”
Ms. McKinney adds, “There’s been a lot of back and forth, trying to close down the center over the years. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen people just snatched away.
“Somebody wants to give jobs to their friends, and they’re changing rules. These teachers nurtured them, loved them. If they truly believe in child development, why are they doing this?”
“They can try to take our spirit,” says one parent, “but they won’t be able to kill it. There will be a battle right here for these children.”
Our Time visited the BSECDC umbrella headquarters to get some answers. BASECDEC leaders were in a closed meeting working on funding proposals for the center.
Later in the day, we received a one-sheet e-mailed, apparently cut-and-paste “response” from BSECDC which raised more questions than it answered. The outline was intended, it said, to reply to queries “in reference to the change in staff locations at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Early Childhood Development Center, Inc.”
While it addresses the fact that BSECDC has the power to make changes in staff, it ignores the questions of concerned parents centered around why, who’s calling the shots and next steps for the children.
Yesterday (July 17), an e-mail from the 275 Marcus Garvey Blvd. site informed “teachers, families and scholars” that “all education staff will be at their assigned locations for the school year 2012-2013, and all to meet and greet at BSECDC campus sites on Tuesday, July 24 and Thursday, July 26.
Below is the “response” from BSECDC sent to inquiring parents and Our Time Press on Tuesday, July 17.
Early Childhood Development Center, Inc.
Classroom Assignment Change
We are fortunate to have an excellent cadre of teachers at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Early Childhood Development Center, Inc. ( BSECDC). The program is confident that in whatever classroom your scholar has been placed, he or she will encounter a warm and well-prepared teacher who is committed to student learning, to student success, to children – to your child.
The process used to assign education staff is a comprehensive one. The Education Unit of BSECDC takes the responsibility of the education staff placement very seriously. Beginning in the spring, and continuing through the summer, many factors are considered in the process of placing every education staff member. This includes adjustments necessary in the summer to incorporate new students. If you are new to BSECDC and have only recently registered, please realize these factors were considered as closely as possible in placing the education staff in the assigned classroom and campus location that will best meet the program’s needs. Such factors involve:
• The program needs of all scholars;
• A balance of achievement levels in compliance with the Department of Health (DOH – Licensing Agency);
• The ongoing training and development of leadership skills;
• Independent work habits of education staff;
• Interpersonal skill factors;
• The compatibility of education staff with each other (such as separating those who have not worked well together in the past);
• Information provided by the teacher through previous parent/teacher conferences;
• Classroom configuration –
- As per the Collective Bargaining Agreement – 95 DC 1707, AFSCME AFL-CIO
Article II-Management Rights
(a) Each agency shall have the right to determine its programs and policies in accordance with policies established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the New York City Administration for Children’s Services/Head Start for reimbursement to Head Start agencies, and to retrench and reorganize its activities and staff at its discretion.
The employer shall [at all times], subject to the provisions of this Agreement and the law, retain the sole right to manage its business and direct the working force.