Sunday, March 23, 2014

Joplin R-8 Board set to approve $14.5 million expansion of early childhood program

When the Joplin R-8 Board of Education meets Tuesday night, it is expected to commit to an expansion of the early childhood program which will cost an estimated $9 to $14 million.

The commitment is coming at a time when the district reserve level is dangerously low and expected to bottom out at eight percent, according to the strategic plan which the board approved last year.

According to the fiscal note provided in the Board of Education documentation, prepared by Director of Special Services Lisa Orem and signed off on by Superintendent C. J. Huff, the funding will come through "a combination of local, state, federal, FEMA 404 safe room, funding, Community Development Block Grant funding, and foundation grants."

The report says "the estimated cost of the facility is between $9.5 and $14.5 million depending upon capacity and available funds."

But, of course, it might cost more.

"The district may have some upfront, one-time expenditures for bricks and mortar. For example, the district required 25 percent match for the 404 safe room."

The expansion of the program is justified by Ms. Orem and Huff at the beginning of the report:

"Since the May 22 tornado, the need for quality early childhood programs has grown exponentially. According to Child Care Aware, the City of Joplin had 67 licensed daycares in the community. Today there are only 30. Quality childcare programs are an essential infrastructure component for the redevelopment of our community. Young families cannot move to a community where affordable early childhood programming is not available.

"It is well documented that early intervention programs during those critical early years is essential to children entering kindergarten ready to learn. Sadly, in Joplin, over 50 percent of children entering kindergarten lack the necessary skills to be successful in school. This creates a significant skill gap between children ready to learn and those who are not. Early intervention is essential to remediating this issue long term. Additionally, the research clearly indicates a profound lifelong impact on children who attend high quality pre-schools vs. children who do not. Therefore, the need is great for the Joplin Schools to pool available resources to support early childhood education."

The Board of Education will be asked to pass a resolution committing the district to the expansion.

(My apologies: The original headline for this post noted half a million dollars in technology additions. I decided to write about that in a later post, but I neglected to change the headline.)


Anonymous said...

I hardly find it reassuring that Lisa Orem did the research behind this proposal. Magically, she was the person who "found" evidence to start Turner's dismissal last year. And now, just as she is preparing to move to the Caribbean and live her dream retirement (after her million dollar dream house here sells), she recommends that Joplin foot the bill for her plan for early childhood education. Way too convenient. Not buying it, but I suppose with our spineless board that I'll be paying for it anyway.

Remember, Lisa Orem hasn't had an administrator's certificate in years, as hers expired. The district has turned a blind eye, of course, but it hardly reflects well on her professionalism.

Anonymous said...

So, who gets to go to this early childhood facility? Is it for every preschool child in Joplin? Will students be chosen by financial need? (About half or more of the children in Joplin schools are free/reduced lunch.) Will it be a lottery? Where will it be located? How will transportation be provided? What do you say to the parents whose children don't make the cut--sucks to be you? How will you pay the staff, since you can't take care of, or keep, what staff you already have? How do we know the money will be spent appropriately, since it is obvious that our money is not always used to the best interest of the patrons of Joplin Schools? Is this, coincidentally, how much is needed to finish the high school?

This raises many, many questions, and the public hasn't had a chance to weigh in. We may not need as much daycare now as we did before the tornado, as many families didn't return since it is now cheaper to live elsewhere. We also can't trust the management, so to speak, to use the money as it was intended. Many years ago the district pledged to increase the educational facility at the juvenile facility. That money, however, never made it where it belonged. It is believed to have been reallocated to hire TLCs and send them on trips. We can't trust these people to be honest with our money. I don't think enough research has been done to justify this expenditure when the district is already broke. Anyone on the Board who votes for this loses my vote automatically any time he or she runs again.

Anonymous said...

The school board votes the way the same way as the North Korean parliament: all the same, and exactly as the leader wants. There, as here, dissenting opinions are a nuisance to be done away with. They may not literally kill you here, but they do make sure to find a way to eliminate your job (which is then universally approved by the necessary governing bodies).

Anonymous said...

At one time, Kindergarten was supposed to prepare students to learn and to socialize prior to their entry into grade school. Now we need pre-Kindergarten training. Will we shortly be providing potty training schools, also?

Anonymous said...

My kids have been part of the Joplin school district since As far back as Parents as kids had to qualify to go to preschool here by having some kind of set back...I hope if they do this they allow all preschool age to go not just the ones who need help!

Anonymous said...

We need this! The earlier kids have the opportunity to do more than watch SPONGEBOB the better. For them. For everyone. Early education benefits isn't just an has been proven.

Anonymous said...

Free and reduced lunch hater - 30 MILLION children benefit from this program. If your kid doesn't need it - great! If your child does need it this program is a very much appreciated use of your tax dollars. It started in the 40s and it ain't going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

2:07--It would be better if those kids were watching SpongeBob. They actually watch R rated horror movies and porn much more than cartoons.

Anonymous said...

Several things need to be understood about early childhood education. Kindergarten is not at all like it should or used to be. The learning through play has been replaced with worksheets. Exploration and guided discovery have been replaced with "direct, explicit instruction." It isn't about learning how to work with others and laying a basic foundation, it's about cramming and testing. No developing a love of reading and learning, just do everything as fast as you can. And Missouri doesn't mandate school attendance until the age of 7 but you can start Kindergarten at age 5. So, if preschool of some kind isn't available, we have more and more students coming to school 'behind.'

Anonymous said...

There appears to be some confusion. In no place do I claim to disapprove of free/reduced lunches. The question is, how do we determine which children get to go to the school. If it is by financial need, then we must consider that at least half of Joplin's children are in need. Is this facility going to be big enough to accommodate that many? If not, how will the children be chosen? That was the point, not whether or not free/reduced lunches are good or bad.
If studies show this will improve the learning ability of children, then why not mandate it for all? If those who need it the most are not taking advantage of it because they don't have to, then what might the purpose be? Do we pull all children away from their parents early just to make sure they all get an equal chance? After all, that was the purpose of Kindergarten and public school--to be the great social equalizer for all students.

I am not against or for this project at this time. I am saying more research needs to be done and more information needs to be provided to answer these questions. We can't afford, as a district, to keep jumping into projects that are not well thought out or considered from all sides. There is no money to spare, and if we cannot adequately serve the children in need, or the students we have enrolled in all grades now, then what is the point in the program? We must think this all the way through and not automatically endorse it because it has a warm and fuzzy appeal.

Anonymous said...

Is this daycare program going to be at the old Memorial school? Is that not where Central Office is moving since MODOT is taking back their building to rent to higher bidders? Nice way to get their office building remodeled, if so. They won't have to contend with the mold and 3" cockroaches the rest of us have had to live with over the years. And, they can attribute the high dollar expenses as necessary because it's "for the kids." I guess the 9/10 kids didn't matter.

Anonymous said...

MODOT didn't rent the building to R8. The governor did. For $1. That building was already in the process of being closed down as part of a plan to cut costs. The tornado sped the MODOT move along with Nixon's assistance. That building is worth more than $1 a year. I'd like to see MODOT get it sold. Then maybe they'll drop the silly idea of adding on another tax.