Day care turnover, worth hundreds of millions, challenged

September 27, 2012 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Daughtry center, after 44 years, to lose Slope site, 35 employees

A decades-old day care center in Brooklyn has accused the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) of tampering with scores on its Request for Proposal (RFP) to cut it out of the city’s new early childcare system, EarlyLearn NYC.

Parents and staff of the Alonzo Daughtry Day Care Center, in operation for 44 years, protested this past Tuesday outside ACS offices in Manhattan. A familiar Brooklyn figure, Reverend Herbert Daughtry and three others, including his daughter Dr. Karen S. Daughtry, director of the center, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after they blocked the sidewalk in front of the ACS entrance.

“On Friday they’ll have one set of teachers, and on Monday the teachers that come in under the new board won’t even know the children’s names,” Dr. Daughtry said in a statement. “They won’t even know where the bathrooms are. They won’t know anything except that they’re now there to take over the children.”

While roughly 35 employees are expected to lose their jobs at the Alonzo Daughtry Day Care Center, it is just one of many long-time day care programs that are turning over control of their operations to a new list of city-approved organizations on October 1.

The city says the change will increase quality standards for 35,000 children served by subsidized childcare and Head Start. Funding cuts and increased costs, however, means fewer children will be served next year.

“The 149 EarlyLearn NYC recommended awardees were selected for their high standards of quality, accessibility, accountability, and developmental focus from a citywide request for proposals from community-based partners,” ACS says on their website.

But many in the day care field say they have never heard of some of the groups chosen to take over centers, and claim that ACS has been less than transparent in its grading system.

Childcare insiders say there are “wild rumors” about one organization that was awarded 19 day care centers in a contract said to be worth more than $30 million annually.  

“The group claims to be operating programs with 1,000 children, but they got awarded 3,500 slots – 8 percent of the city’s total,” said one day care operator, who didn’t want to be identified. “There are rumors they are totally unprepared administratively and financially, and don’t have the infrastructure to be able to handle it by Monday.”

On May 4, Dr. Daughtry received notice that the program scored below 75, the threshold for acceptance on the RFP submitted last year. Dr. Daughtry said in a statement, however, that the three evaluators scoring the RFP had originally arrived at an average rating of 82.6. Dr. Daughtry said she received a tip on April 12 that the people responsible for scoring the day care center’s RFP “were instructed to lower the score.”

 “If any credible witness can come forward and demonstrate the process was not valid, it raises impossible questions about how EarlyLearn can go forward,” said Jim Matison, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society (BKS), which runs five of the city’s top-rated day care centers. BKS was one of the organizations chosen to run day care programs under EarlyLearn.

“We got everything we currently have and were awarded three additional classes,” Matison said. But he, too, has questions about the RFP scoring methods. “They deducted points for things that made absolutely no sense,” he said. “We’ve filed an appeal.”

In an email to the Brooklyn Eagle, an ACS spokesperson said the agency followed the rules in awarding day care contracts.  “The Administration for Children’s Services responded to an official protest from the Alonzo Daughtry Memorial Day Care Center regarding its score on the EarlyLearn NYC proposal, which indicated that we followed Procurement Policy Board rules in evaluating and scoring their proposal.” ACS added that “high quality providers were awarded contracts through a rigorous evaluation process.”

An ACS employee, speaking on background, said, “In any city RFP process, proposals are scored by individuals. When there is a significant disparity, the evaluators are brought together again and asked to review and confer over the proposal and review as to why there might be a disparity. Nobody is asked to change the score. For EarlyLearn, if the disparity was greater than 18 points, the evaluators were brought back.”

The employee added that the Alonzo Daughtry center was one in which the city pays the lease. “The city lease sites are very competitive. Strong Place Day Care Center, headquartered in Brooklyn, scored higher and was awarded the seats there to continue the work they do in the community.”

One day care operator said he feared the changeover would be chaotic. “We were told in June that the manual would be out in early August. Now we were just told that the manual would not be available until this Friday. The new program starts Monday. You’re dealing with Headstart, day care, two different unions. No one has told us how to categorize employees. It’s incredibly difficult.”

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