Gav Child Center gets a lifeline

Child development major Terri Wells, right, gets a chance to

Following an efflux of public outcry over the possible closure of Gavilan College’s Child Development Center, the clouds appear to be parting.
Less than a month ago, the CDC – an on-campus facility serving education and community needs – was under scrutiny due to its $300,000 encroachment on Gavilan’s $28 million annual budget.
It’s since been withdrawn from the chopping block, according to Gavilan’s President/Superintendent Steve Kinsella, who attributed the positive projection to a change in forthcoming expenditures that were “way overstated.”
Expected assumptions, such as golf course maintenance ($220,000) and South Bay Regional Public Safety Training ($250,000), were eliminated. The college also recently received two grants for $650,000 and $1.2 million, which will help absorb financial burden from the general fund, Kinsella said. Gavilan’s deficit now sits around $1.1 million, compared with the previously anticipated $1.7 million.
“We had a board room full of people showing interest and support,” he said Tuesday, referencing a jam-packed Oct. 12 public meeting wherein teachers and parents passionately advocated for the CDC. “But if I don’t look at it and just ignore it, I’m not being responsible and doing my job. I am the one who has to bring up these unpopular things.”
Citing at least three closures of similar programs in nearby cities, Kinsella is also taking into account the fact that Gavilan’s CDC is one of the last of its kind in the area.
“I hadn’t really considered the impact of what keeping one of them in the region open would do,” he added.
The announcement from Kinsella comes less than a week after the Gavilan board approved his $42,00 pay bump. The amount will be implemented over a period of four years, gradually raising Kinsella’s current $234,000 salary to $276,000.
The newly negotiated four-year contract comes as an incentive for Kinsella, who was named a finalist in the search for a new chancellor of the West Valley-Mission Community College District.
When asked if the decision to take the CDC’s possible closure off the table was related to his salary raise, Kinsella replied “I’m not making that connection. They really don’t relate to one another.”
Center advocates describe Gavilan’s program as second to none in South County, as it provides “a safe, loving, secure environment that fosters each child’s unique cognitive, social-emotional, physical, and language development within a well-planned environment,” according to the program’s catalogue description.
In operation at the campus on Santa Teresa Boulevard since 1975, the CDC currently serves 56 children (with a capacity for 75) through its Early Preschool, half-and full-day California State Preschool and Community Preschool programs. It started in a portable classroom before moving into its present, 8,222-square-foot facility in 2001, and is staffed with 11 people.
Of the 56 children enrolled, 41 receive daycare at state-subsidized prices, and an additional eight to 10 receive subsidized funding from outside sources, said Susan Alonzo, CDC director and adjunct professor for Child Development.
Thirty-eight parents who have children enrolled in the CDC are also Gavilan students, she said.
On Tuesday, Kinsella said he also pleased with greater efforts underway to utilize the CDC not only as a preschool/daycare center, but as the instructional lab “it was intended to be.”
The center operates two-fold, providing real-time observation and hands-on learning experience for students. Nursing majors practice taking the temperature, height and weight of children; ESL students practice reading and conversing with the children; and a host of child development classes are taught on site, such as music, movement, mathematics, language, literature, nutrition and CPR for children.
As the most expensive, non-educational program at Gavilan (the CDC’s operating cost is $700,000) Kinsella wants to see greater emphasis on incorporating the facility and childcare activities into hands-on learning for students. In his opinion, the CDC’s observation lab component is a unique feature within the facility that “was never used enough.” Developing the instructional component will be a focus in the coming year, he said.
In October, the plan was to bring the CDC’s fiscal encroachment to both Gavilan’s staff and Board of Trustees, then engage in dialogue and conjure possible solutions (be it finding ways to downsize, or close all together) with a decision by the board planned in May.
As of Wednesday, however, “I’ve gone through the budget, and this isn’t that big of an item,” said Kinsella. “We’ll continue to talk about it, but I’m not going to ask for a decision in May.”
Despite steady rises in wage and benefits costs for employees, a descent in support funding from the government welfare program CalWORKs and a mandated professor-to-student staffing ratio that’s “very pricey,” Kinsella said “we’re close enough that if faculty needs another year to look at the programs, we’ll give the economy another year.”

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