In a school board meeting that some officials called the most contentious they have ever been involved in, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education selected new child care providers for three of its elementary schools Tuesday night.
will likely no longer provide services at , and , with the board unanimously voting against renewing their lease at those locations. Starting next school year, Kids' Country will take over at Tassajara Hills and Twin Creeks. At Golden View, the YMCA will be the child care provider.
The Growing Room's lease was renewed at . The leases at Alamo (YMCA), Creekside (Kids' Country) and Rancho Romero (YMCA) were also renewed.
Though the board made its intention clear with the vote, the decision came with a caveat.
Board President Greg Marvel said he received notice right before the meeting that the district is facing a legal challenge that it violated the Brown Act during the process of determining which child care provider would be awarded the leases.
(Note: The Brown Act is a California law that gives the public the right to attend meetings of local legislative bodies. It means the board as a whole can't meet in private).
So, the board's decision is contingent on outside legal council verifying that there was no Brown Act violation during the process.
That was far from the only contentious issue on Tuesday.
About 30 parents told the board during the more than three-hour-long meeting that they didn't want to change child care providers.
"The Growing Room has worked exceptionally well with me and my daughter and working on my daughter's shyness," a mother of a Golden View second-grader said. "I don't know about Kids' Country."
Many others noted they thought the decision-making process was flawed and were concerned about recent Kids' Country saftey issues.
How the decision was made
Last year, the board decided that rather than automatically renew its child care leases, like it has in the past, it would open up the process to the marketplace.
The seven schools whose leases were expiring each formed a committee to make a recommendation to the board. The committees were comprised of three parents with no children in childcare, two who have or had a child in child care, a teacher and the principal.
After hearing from the different providers and reviewing other material, the committees made their recommendations to the board.
What played a role in the committee's recommendation was a survey the district emailed to all parents in the district. But fewer than 15 percent (604 total) of the surveys were filled out.
Between the Growing Room, the YMCA and Kids' Country, the Growing Room scored the lowest on the survey.
When asked if parents were "extremely satisfied" or "satisfied" with services provided, 92 percent of Kids' Country parents said yes, 87 percent of YMCA parents and 82 percent of Growing Room parents.
Parents and Growing Room staff comments
How the process was conducted, the methodology used and the safety history at Kids' Country were the central issues raised by parents and Growing Room staff.
Many parents said they wish they were more involved in the process. Some said there should have been town hall meetings to discuss which child care provider would be best for their school and all the parents said they were happy with the Growing Room and didn't want a change.
"Losing the Growing Room will be losing a member of the family," one parent said.
A number of parents were nervous about switching over to Kids' Country, , most notably a handful of cases of children wandering away from facility staffers.
"These parents trust us with their children ... we provide exceptional care," a Growing Room staff member said. "I don't understand how another company can be rewarded for having a number of safety violations."
(Note: In the meeting, the Growing Room did admit to also having received a similar serious violation in the last couple years, but said it was the only incident. Kids' Country representatives did attend the meeting, but did not speak.)
The board's comments
All the board members admitted the process wasn't perfect, but in the end they trusted the committee and staff recommendations. Three board members said they were unhappy with the tone of some of the public comments, which on occasion were hostile, with audience members yelling questions at the board.
Board member Rachel Hurd said she trusted the committees did a thorough job and had parents' best interests in mind, as does the district.
She said she was concerned about Kids' Country safety record, but was confident they had fixed their problems.
"I feel very confident the committees were fair, deliberate and all encompassing," Hurd said.
Board member Denise Jennison said allowing competition for child care services makes companies improve their care.
She also supported the committees' decisions.
"I am not going to second guess the work of those people," Jennison said.
Board members Paul Gardner and Ken Mintz echoed those sentiments, adding that they thought the public was out of line in some of their comments.
"In 12 years on the board, I have never been attacked or disrespected more than I was tonight," Gardner said.
Mintz said at times he felt the public was trying to bully the board, which sends the wrong message to children in the district.
Marvel said he appreciate the passion, but it sometimes went overboard.
But at the issue at hand, Marvel, like the other board members, thought the process and decision from the committees were correct.
"I think capitalism is a good thing," Marvel said. "This process was not intended to be rigged or slant the process for one child care (provider) for another."