When parents with children in Wayside Elementary School learned April 22 that the nonprofit organization, Farmland Child Development Center (CDC), providing before and after care lost its contract at the school they were very unhappy, according to Gina D’Angelo, a CDC board member and Wayside parent.
Actually, more than unhappy. So unhappy that they held a Town Hall meeting at Potomac Community Center Thursday, May 3. About 40 people attended the meeting to learn about the change in providers and express their concern about how the change came about.
“This is a very emotional time for us,” D’Angelo said. “I feel blindsided. Why would you replace a great program with one you didn’t know?”
CDC has been the before and after care provider at Wayside for 28 years, said Renee Sussman, director of the program who has been at the school 20 years.
No one ever thought CDC would lose the bid to continue at the school.
“Everyone was happy with it as far as I can tell,” D’Angelo said.
As part of the Montgomery County Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) program, day care programs in schools must go through a competitive selection process every seven years.
This was the year for Wayside, along with 11 other elementary schools.
The process began in the fall of 2017, according to the CUPF website. At that time, both the school principal and the childcare provider were notified that they were a site to be up for the bid process.
That process follows several steps throughout the school year including a principal appointed selection committee, Requests for Proposals and applicant interviews, ending with the posting of the result in mid-April. Kids Adventures, a for profit company located in Silver Spring, was selected for Wayside and will operate the program beginning in September 2018.
Not, however, if the CDC board of directors can block the decision.
“The county implemented a deeply flawed process in selecting and reviewing childcare organizations for the Wayside community,” the CDC Board wrote in a letter to county Council member Roger Berliner. “Although county officials were required to adhere strictly to [regulations] and implement a system that was both transparent and inclusive, they — instead — manufactured an opaque process devoid of any meaningful input from the CDC community…”
The letter to Berliner listed eight areas in which the process was flawed.
When asked if the process was followed according to regulations, Elizabeth Haberman of the Office of Community Use of Public Facilities replied by email.
“CUPF staff take great care to follow all of the steps in the regulation. I am not aware of any variations,” she wrote.
Thursday’s meeting included an explanation of the flawed process as the CDC board sees it and input from parents or others involved with CDC. Many parents spoke about the positive role CDC plays in their families
Board members announced they would meet with a lawyer experienced in working with the county and its regulations on May 7 and work for change following the tack that the process was not transparent enough and the county did not adhere to its own guidelines.
A few parents expressed deeper concerns, alluding to personnel problems at Kids Adventures.
“Two employees of Kids Adventures are currently indicted for crimes,” Sussman said. “In the fall of 2016 an employee at [the Kids Adventures program] was accused of improper touching, that is reported in the Washington Post; and the other, reported April 2 on WJLA, involved a fight and robbery between two employees. This speaks to the type of people they hire.”
Kids Adventures was asked about these allegations and how they would reassure parents about care in its hiring practices.
“In accordance with our policies and procedures, we conduct both state and federal background checks on all staff that remain open throughout their tenure of employment,” Drew Phillips, executive director of Kids Adventures, wrote in an email. “Ensuring a safe environment for the students in the program is our top priority.”
Will the CDC Board be able to put the decision on hold while they appeal?
“The regulation provided for a review of the process. If a request for review is timely, the decision would be put on hold, while CUPF’s board, the Interagency Coordinating Board for the Community Use of Public Facilities (ICB) committee reviews CUPF’s compliance with regulation. The ICB cannot overturn a school committee’s decision,” Haberman replied in her email.
This article was updated May 15, 2018.