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December 12, 2006 > City preschool looks for a miracle

City preschool looks for a miracle

by Steve Warga

In her first official act as Milpitas’ first Parks and Recreation director, Bonnie Greiner told the city council a story of a program, over 20 years old, on the verge of collapse. Unless a replacement teacher can be found by year’s end, the city’s current version of this operation will cease for lack of personnel.

Greiner described an on-going failure in recruitment, due primarily to salary ranges well below the levels offered by private preschool providers. She advised council that the city’s program will close, effective January, 2007 when the one remaining teacher will have reached the maximum number of hours allowed under state pension guidelines for part-time employees. Unless council authorizes additional funding, about 130 children will be without the two-hours per day of structured learning currently available. An additional 150, or so, applicants will also be disappointed.

Short of a cash infusion, Greiner suggested a couple other options, but even these will require more money than allowed in the current budget. Council took these under advisement and voted to revisit the matter in the context of fiscal year 2007-2008 budget negotiations. The mayor, among others, expressed his belief that Milpitas should not permanently close its program, as many lower income parents rely upon the very modest fee structure currently in place. Beyond expressing their sentiments, the council never seriously considered any funding adjustments to keep things going through FY ’06-’07.

Although conceding things look pretty grim beyond this month, Greiner took exception to a local media report of definite closure in January. “We’ll keep open recruiting,” she assured council. “Maybe we’ll miraculously receive applications during the holidays from qualified applicants.” Who knows? Santa might have a big surprise in store for a bunch of Milpitas youngsters this Christmas!

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