BY MARCY SHORTUSE - Ax is a harsh word. Maybe it gets people’s attention in a negative way. Was it appropriate in last week’s headline? That depends on who you talk to.
I will be posting links to YouTube, where I will have several segments of the meeting that occurred on Tuesday, March 6. More than 50 parents and concerned citizen’s attended. Principal Rosa Ramos from The Island School was there, several of the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center members were there, and the Friends Executive Director Marta Howell was present as well.
Maybe some of you will watch the segments and understand why all of us came away just as confused as when we walked in the door.
The only reason it is cut into several parts is because I can only post videos that are 10 minutes long on YouTube. The last five minutes of the meeting aren’t there either, but that’s because the camera battery went dead.
Laquata Meade is a diminutive woman with a huge heart. When she stood at the meeting and told everyone that she had been given a date in late May when her Munchkins program would end, it had a huge impact on people. Her confusion echoed all of our own. There was a huge miscommunication between the Friends board and the parents, that much we all know.
The Beacon was the only media at the meeting. I had a feeling there would be some strong feelings expressed there, and that’s why I filmed it. I am more than prepared to be the one thrown under the bus by members of Friends’ who have said that the Beacon was key in the “miscommunication” that occurred at the parents’ meeting on March 6.
But when 50 people walk away with the same miscommunication, which is that the Friends’ would no longer fund the children’s programs, then it turns into something else entirely.
It was not TIS Principal Rosa Ramos who was to blame for what transpired at that meeting. She did her best to explain that the school would do what they could if Friends’ weren’t going to handle the programs anymore. If she was told that the Friends wouldn’t be funding the after-school program anymore, then that was what she was told.
These “rumors” had been going around the school for more than a month. And right at a time when enrollment at the school was low and parents were looking at where they were going to send their kids to school next fall. I had been doing my best to stop those rumors for quite some time, and was told that the after-school program would continue, no matter what.
At the March 6 meeting that was, indeed, what Howell said. But she also made it clear that another entity would be running the program, and it wouldn’t be Friends, and it wouldn’t be Lee County Parks and Recreation. You can watch the videos and see that for yourselves. Ramos did her best to explain to parents that the school would try to pick up that ball and run with it, but even she didn’t have all the answers as to how it would work.
The rumor mill has nothing to do with the facts. The Friends organization is losing money with their children’s programs. Enrollment is down, which means tuition is down. There are, however, still salaries to be paid and supplies to be purchased. If it takes the parents to help to raise more money, we will gladly do it. I am hoping we can help to fix this problem.
The people who have a bit of money in their pocket on the island also have the wherewithall to follow up on their donations, and hopefully make sure that they went to the programs they were earmarked for.
The children’s programs mean a whole lot to many people on this island, and many people wrap their lives around trying to find work on the island so they can enroll their children in the Munchkins and after-school.
But these are not programs that we should feel entitled to. We are blessed to have them, and to be able to entrust our children to amazing program administrators and teachers. As if that weren’t enough, our programs are considerably cheaper than many others on the mainland. We are luckier than a lot of parents to have such great programs, to be sure.
Thank you, Friends, for reconsidering your decision on our childcare programs and explaining more thoroughly that you won’t cut them. We need them. We also need our little school to thrive. And if we need to try a little harder to supplement the program’s income, we will do that as well.
But please, Friends board, communicate with us clearly. This came at a very bad time, while parents were standing on the brink of a new school year with enrollment forms in our hands. Check bocabeacon.com or our facebook page on Friday to find the links to the coverage of the March 6 meeting.
Marcy Shortuse is the editor of the Boca Beacon
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