County seeks rescue plan for preschool services

Ravenswood district has no funds to continue operating Child Development Center

The Ravenswood school district is in talks with the county and state to assume operations for the Child Development Center, which provides preschool services for children 3-5 years old in East Palo Alto. Photo by Veronica Weber.

The fate of the Ravenswood City School District's state-funded preschool program hangs in the balance as the district, facing an ongoing budget shortfall, negotiates with the county and state to assume operations of the Child Development Center (CDC) in East Palo Alto.

The district plans to lay off the majority of the staff there — the school board approved last week cutting 28 out of 31 positions as part of more than $5 million in reductions for next year — but school officials have said they do not plan to close the center.

Ravenswood is currently in talks with the San Mateo County Office of Education and the California Department of Education to explore different options for the center, which is close to full enrollment with 165 students out of 185 available spaces, according to the district.

The county could potentially take over the center's state-funded preschool slots, county Superintendent of Schools Anne Campbell said in an interview, and Ravenswood families would still have access to them, just under a different provider.

Other nearby preschool programs, such as the Creative Montessori Learning Center in East Palo Alto and the federally funded Head Start program (which has local locations in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Redwood City), could also expand to the facility to address a "huge shortage" of child care facilities in the county, Campbell said.

But, she noted, other preschool programs also operate on very slim budgets.

The county Office of Education could also reassign the preschool slots, and funding, to facilities throughout the rest of San Mateo County, but the agency is aiming to keep them in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park, Campbell said.

The district did not make Chief Budget Official Steve Eichman nor Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff available to answer questions about the CDC by the Weekly's press deadline.

At the Feb. 8 board meeting, Hernandez-Goff told a full room of staff, parents and community members, many wearing name tags to indicate their affiliation with the CDC, that the district has no money to continue operating the center.

The Child Development Center serves students 3 to 5 years old. Admission is based on family size and income, according to the district website. In order to qualify for admission, parents must either be working, in school at an accredited institution or seeking employment.

District staff have described the center as under-enrolled but costly and subsidized by the general fund. The district is now facing a multiyear budget shortfall due to years of declining enrollment and a corresponding loss in state revenue, compounded by several years of deficit spending.

At last week's board meeting, some parents also suggested that Ravenswood collaborate with the City of East Palo Alto to operate the Child Development Center. They described the CDC as an invaluable program that had made a significant difference in the academic and social-emotional lives of their young children.

In a Thursday letter to East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica and the City Council, board President Ana Pulido and Vice President Sharifa Wilson asked that the city financially support the Child Development Center. The trustees cited the city's commitment to the My Brother's Keeper initiative, a national effort to support young men of color, and the preschool program's ability to impact male students at a young age.

"As our neighbors continue being pushed out of our community via gentrification, it is becoming more and more evident that, in order to maintain the soul of our community, we are all going to have to work together to support local families," the trustees wrote.

Campbell said the local, county and state agencies are under a tight deadline to find a resolution for the Child Development Center: Ravenswood will forego responsibility for the center when the fiscal year ends on June 30, but the facility is open year-round. 4C's of San Mateo County, which provides referrals and resources related to child care and preschool services, could potentially help place children elsewhere this summer, Campbell said.

Campbell said her office has asked the state Department of Education to send a representative to do a site walk of the Child Development Center to evaluate potential options. The county then aims to bring together any agencies or preschool programs who might be interested in expanding to the CDC.

The school board will hold a retreat this Saturday, Feb. 17, in part to discuss the budget and seek public input on cuts. The meeting will be held at 2120 Euclid Ave., East Palo Alto. The board's open session is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. View the agenda here.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct inaccurate enrollment information provided by the school district. There are currently 165 students enrolled out of 185 available spaces at the Child Development Center.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


13 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Ms. Hernandez shall let the state or county take over the whole district not just the pre-school. She spent more money than what the district had and now we are in a financial crisis. Her contract shall not be removed. Things will only get worse if she stays in the district. She has only been in the district for 5 years, and look what she got us into. We can not take a chance our children's education and their future is at risk. Please attend tomorrow's board meeting at 9:20 AM It is our chance to raise our voice and let her know how we feel about her mismanaging the students' funds.

13 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2018 at 12:34 pm

*Sorry, I meant to say that her contract shall not be renewed.

12 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 16, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Where is the money?????? Why haven't we got specific details where the money has gone. The Sup. Has put her son in the district without flying the position which is illegal. The staff over there is getting blindsided. Some staff over there has been there for more than 20 years, this is there life. They are concerned how they are going to pay there rent. Get her the hell out of there. She got people scared to speak up cause they might loose there jobs. They have people sitting on the board for no reason 3 out five of the board members are tired and should let those positions go. Sharifa Wilson one of the school board members put her girlfriend Glenda Savage as the site supervisor at the CDC, knowing we didn't have no money than. Its all politics somebody is stealing and mismanaging the funds! Now CDC staff will be homeless cause they have not promised them they will have a job. They are just saying the center wont close. WELL WHAT ABOUT THE GOT DAM STAFF!

4 people like this
Posted by I agree
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2018 at 12:58 am

Concerned parent of Menlo Park
I agree with you. An investigation shall be done to find out where are the 8 million dollars that Maria Vega, former superintended left. The money could not just disappear. Also, REF gives a lot of donation, Facebook toot, and Zuckerberg's wife has been giving the district many donations by the millions. This is the worst time to come and say that there is no money to keep the CDC operations. Ms. Hernandez needs to be investigated and taken out of the district now before things get a lot worst. Our kids deserved the best, and this is not the superintendedn's priority. Now they are putting another parcel tax, and they expect us to vote yes when all they are doing is wasting money and closing our pre-school. Hell No!

1 person likes this
Posted by Ellen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 17, 2018 at 8:14 am

Where is all the tax revenue from the big 101 shopping mall? Still no public high school in EPA, and now the CDC is under threat. Someone is surely feathering their own nest ...

4 people like this
Posted by Ruben’s right!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2018 at 1:42 pm

Follow the consultant contracts for the last few years! Many former employees being hired as consultants, often illegally. Most recently, the former controller hired as a consultant to “support” the CBO. Pay twice to do one job! While deficit spending, RCSD gave a 10 % salary increase! Fiscal suicide! Why does the Superintendent still have a job? Hires her son, pays him more than $86,000 and bypasses him when layoffs are announced! The Board is complicit and ineffectual! Need to clean house,

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Downtown Palo Alto gets new Vietnamese eatery
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 5,280 views

More Stupid Plastic Food Things
By Laura Stec | 18 comments | 2,687 views

Operation Varsity Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 8 comments | 1,830 views

State Legislature on Housing: Getting the Demos out of Democracy & with it, Accountability
By Douglas Moran | 7 comments | 1,592 views

Environmentalists will soon be fighting housing advocates over what to do with the SF Bay locally
By Diana Diamond | 20 comments | 1,065 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details