Letter: Preschool served the community well
In response to Gloucester Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Carol Steele’s letter of May 14 regarding the closure of the Creative Learning Preschool Program:
—As stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, one of the most efficient, beneficial and prudent methods of utilizing taxpayer dollars is providing an enriching early childhood experience. Creative Learning Preschool has offered a secular, low-budget, least-cost community preschool for families (who do not qualify for Head Start) for over 30 years.
—Enrollment has declined to the point where expenses have exceeded revenue due to a lack of exposure and awareness, not student availability. For example, from 2000 to 2006, the CLP program was promoted in the quarterly county-sponsored Beehive publication in almost every issue. From 2006 to the present, the CLP program was mentioned briefly once a year. The noticeable absence of free advertising for the preschool coincides with management changes in the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.
—In a time when social media are so prominent in our daily lives, one would naturally assume a competitive preschool program would have a website (which is free), Facebook page (also free), or mention of program details on the web. This was not the case in regards to CLP. How can there be great demand for a program that is one of Gloucester County’s best kept secrets?
—A 2011 increase of only $10 could not possibly generate adequate funds to help offset costs without securing additional students through promotion. It was doomed to fail. Why weren’t further increases in tuition and registration fees considered? The tuition cost of CLP is $75 for the M/W/F class and $55 for the T/TH class with an annual registration fee of $35. This is significantly less expensive than other programs in the area. CLP could initiate a notable increase in both tuition and registration fees and still maintain affordability.
—Director Steele’s comparison of CLP to a weeklong preschool mini-camp illustrates how much importance she assigns to preschool education.
—The fiscal impact of the CLP program on the Parks, Recreation and Tourism budget pales in comparison to recent salary increases received by staff members. While budget shortfalls may be the reason behind closing CLP, promotions and pay raises for the Parks, Recreation and Tourism administrative staff were, on average, a 22.5 percent increase over the last two years for a total increase of over $69,000 department wide.
—In light of recent salary disclosures, Parks, Recreation and Tourism is simply paying itself more to do less. They lament dwindling enrollment, but will not advertise. They talk about a lack of funds, but have not once contacted parents or the community about fundraising efforts. Financial issues and motivations for closure aside, the ultimate cost of closing CLP will be in the lives of those who will not benefit from this program in the future.
Thank you, current and former teachers of CLP, for your many years enriching the lives of our young children.
John Dayton, Barbara Dayton, Lakin Sutheimer, Sam Sutheimer, Kimberly Day, Jennifer Thompson, Patrick Thompson, Nicole Bayler, Guadalupe Fernandez, John Gsell, Tammy Gsell, Christina Robinette, James Robinette, Elizabeth Collawn, Christy Barr, Ralph Barr, Anita Dunston, Laura Wheaton, Greg West, Connie West, Honor Latta, Christina Micket, Katrina Jenkins, Brian Dodier-Harris, Heather Smith, Will Lemons, Leah McGraw, James McGraw, Korey Beecher, Andrew Beecher, Candy Bowen, Wesley Bowen, David Evanger, Nicole Evanger, Chad Dermyer, Michelle Dermyer, Dean Dorsey, Mary Dorsey, Travis Latta, Laura Hoffman, Brian Altland, Stephanie Altland, Hope Owens, Ronald Owens, Alison Richmond, Rebecca Reese, Tony Reese, Jennifer Walker, Alan Walker, Regina Brown, Todd Nelson, Kim Mills, Beth Caulley, Amy Webb, David Hoffman, Cheryl Keyser