The California Dept. of Social Services denied the application for an increase in allowed enrollment fof Pacific Oaks Children's School in Pasadena. The iconic 68-year-old preschool begun by Pacific Oaks College that was central to the reawakening of California's early education movement in the early 1970s notified the parents of 44 children last week that they no longer had places for them in this morning’s first day of school.
...Enrollment last school year reached about 140 children; the school was licensed for 77. Officials applied to [DSS] to increase the capacity in July but were denied. So school administrators cut programs, laid off teachers and informed the families of 44 students just before Labor Day that they could not return....Six students, who were in their last year of the program, are being given the opportunity to register in both morning and afternoon part-time sessions, which typically cost $1,280 a month each. Those who do will pay the full-time rate of $1,675 a month, school officials said….
[DSS]… denied the application because of recent safety violations, according to the denial letter sent to the school. In the letter, the agency said the school failed to provide satisfactory evidence that it could meet licensing requirements by state law. The department referred to several incidents in recent years in which the school was cited for failing to report an injury of a child, withholding information about the child's injury, and failing to provide proper care and supervision, among other things. The incidents occurred when Jane Rosenberg was the school's director. She retired at the end of last school year.
Covering the story at a parents' meeting on Saturday night organized by California State Senator Carol Liu (D-La Canada/Pasadena), CBS News in LA reported that families were angry.
...“I believe this is a social equity issue. The programs that were closed were full time working families but it was also the most diverse families,” said Sandra Chen-Lau, a parent....
This criticism is a particular bitter pill for Pacific Oaks to swallow -- the college and school was founded in 1945 by Quaker families and has long characterized itself as an institution dedicated ".... to social justice, inclusion, innovation and excellence... the hallmark of Pacific Oaks for over half a century... to define best practices in teacher training and early childhood education..."
(The new director of the Child Development Division of the California Dept. of Education, Debra McMannis, is a graduate of Pacific Oaks College. CDD coordinates the state preschool program, and enforces compliance with state licensing law for child care and education facilities.)
The school's director, Jane Rosenberg, retired at the end of last year, and the interim director "realized the school was over capacity, and applied to DSS for an increase. According to CBS News, the school had been over-capacity (licensed for 77, serving 140), "possibly for years."
“The budget reductions of the last five, 10 years has meant that we can’t visit as often as we want,” said Dave Dodds, with the DSS Community Care Licensing Division.
The college has been close to closing in the last few years, as the Pasadena Weekly chronicled in 2009:
...Although the Pacific Oaks administration neither confirms nor denies it, persons present at a closed staff meeting held over two years ago say it was then disclosed that the main buildings on the preschool campus needed millions of dollars worth of repairs. These critics maintain that closing the college would allow Pacific Oaks to shift funds to renovate the Arroyo campus, or to shift the preschoolers to the college’s Craftsman-classic main campus near the Gamble House...This 200-pupil school [licensed for 77], with its 15 percent admissions rate, “is harder to get into than Harvard,” Denham says; it serves primarily the toddlers of the elite. Preschool parents now dominate the Pacific Oaks board...
(The college was not closed; in July 2012, the "Craftsman-classic" (at left) was sold for $6 million and the campus was consolidated with the school a few blocks away in the location pictured above.)