Shorewood staying with Milestones in 2014-15

Superintendent directed to work with community, provider

Dec. 17, 2013

Shorewood — Much to the relief of the audience in attendance Tuesday evening, the School Board decided to stick with before- and after-school child care provider Milestones for the 2014-15 school year.

The board had been considering a child care study which included the possibility of ending the district's 34-year relationship with Milestones and bringing child care in-house with district employees. The district's contract with Milestones requires that the board notify them of any change to the contract no later than Jan. 1, prompting the deliberation Tuesday.

But after a lengthy discussion, and some pointed questions from district parents, the board decided to hold off the discussion and keep Milestones in place through the 2014-15 school year. In the meantime, Superintendent Martin Lexmond is directed to work with Milestones to survey the community on its child care needs and bring the Milestones program more in line with district educational goals.

Lexmond will report back to the board late next year on the community's response and his success in working with Milestones.

"If I have a sense we're not moving the vision well enough with Milestones, we'll come back with a proposal to do this in house," Lexmond said.

Guiding the child care study was a desire to both align the content of the program with district initiatives like student interventions, character education, closing the achievement gap, and a desire to offer more affordable child care to parents who may not be able to foot the bill for Milestones, Lexmond said.

Board President Rob Reinhoffer commented that the idea of researching alternative child care services has been a perennial topic at the School Board in recent years but to date has not produced anything tangible before the study under consideration Tuesday.

"I don't want this to drop, to talk about it in a year or two years, and then the next School Board member thinks of it again," Reinhoffer said. "There needs to be a sense of urgency."

Reinhoffer's suggestion was to get an extension on the Jan. 1 deadline from Milestones, survey the community of child care needs, and decide in early 2014 whether to take the programs in-house for the 2014-15 school year.

Board member David Cobb, however, said next school year is too soon to study, construct and staff an in-district child care program.

"I think we're setting ourselves up for failure there, to design and implement a program (by September 2014)," Cobb said, earning a round of murmured agreement among the crowd of parents in attendance.

The board ultimately decided to table the child care discussion until the survey is completed and Lexmond reports next year on the success of bringing the Milestones programs into line with district goals.

Milestones representatives said they are willing to work with the district.

"We want to make sure that our program is affordable," Milestones Executive Director David Montemurri said. "As for aligning with the district (initiatives), those are goals that we can accomplish together."

Several district parents questioned an apparent lack of communication from the board regarding the child care study and potential switch. One parent criticized the "poor organization" of the process while another criticized the board for failing to approach Milestones about its programs before considering the change.

Lexmond and the board acknowledged that the process could have been handled better.

"Maybe we got here in a clunky way," Lexmond said, adding of the Tuesday discussion among the board and parents, "but it's still the right way to do things here in Shorewood, to get people together and talk."

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