Superintendent Terry Dade continued his push for a revamp of the Rochester City School District’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program on Monday.
Some Rochester Board of Education members say the board is split on Supt. Terry Dade’s plan to take over 60 % of Rochester’s pre-K program. The board is set to vote on the plan Thursday.
The district currently houses about 40 percent of pre-K students, and the rest are in 30 community-based organizations, including daycares and nonprofits, that the district partially funds.
To grow the district’s part of the program, Dade wants to take over two elementary schools #44 and #57 that have low enrollment and transform them into early childhood centers. Dade says the district intends to offer wraparound care at all three universal pre-k centers starting at 6:45 a.m. and as late as 6 p.m. He says that will be funded by state and federal grants.
“This is a fairly cost-neutral proposal that’s going to pay extreme dividends in the long term,” said Dade.
Dade said the move will save about $4 million, convince parents to keep kids in the district long term and stop the creep of charter schools. He said several charter schools have approached him about using district buildings in the light of the district’s financial crisis but he's against that.
“Every building that we turn over to charter is a guaranteed decline in enrollment at RCSD, period,” said Dade. “No one can state otherwise for me. I might as well put a charter logo on all the kiddo’s backs at 44 and 57 and sign them up for leaving my district.”
Dade also warned the board not to make decisions based on personal relationships with these programs. At least two board members work at organizations that house the pre-K programs.
“The last thing this community needs is a vote where we’re looking at a select few CBOs and we’re voting based on who those CBOs are,” said Dade. “That’s not smart planning. That’s not smart governance. And that’s not what this vote is about on Thursday.”
A paper released Monday by the education advocacy group, The Children’s Agenda, made a case for delaying this decision, warning that Dade’s plan may cost more than it saves, could have no effect on enrollment and “was developed without any parent or community input.”
The paper goes on to question the wisdom of Dade’s proposal:
“Rochester’s mixed delivery Pre-K model is designed to be responsive to the needs of families with young children, is nationally recognized for quality, and has adapted to overcome some of the limitations of state education funding.The Superintendent’s proposal will close many Pre-K classrooms that are already successful and thriving, and will disrupt the daily life plans of hundreds of Rochester families.”
Eamonn Scanlon, a policy analyst for the group said that the district should separate the decision on closing the schools from changing Universal Pre-K and he said that there’s no financial reason for Dade’s plan.
“This is really about building utilization and that is a separate issue,” said Scanlon. ‘We should make any changes to a nationally recognized program that is so successful through a more collaborative process with parent and community input and be very careful about changes that we make to things that are already working.”
The paper is below: