• Restructure of Parents’ Place sought

    Foundation Seeks to Pull the Ripcord on ‘Parachute Plan’

    by Kacie Clark

    When the chattering of small children and the intermittent cries of infants threatened to drown out the official business of the Friends of Parent’s Place public forum Friday, the students and alumni of the Pacific Grove-based Parent’s Place knew exactly what to do- they stopped the meeting and sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” to quiet the children.

    Parent’s Place, a parenting and early childhood education program serving families with young children, has existed in Pacific Grove for 25 years. Operating as part of the Pacific Grove Adult Education Program, Parent’s Place, which expects to serve over 200 families this year, faces another round of budget cuts.

    The meeting, hosted by the nonprofit Friends of Parent’s Place, which was established in 2002 to help Parent’s Place with fundraising support, focused on a presentation and discussion of the nonprofit’s proposed “Parachute Plan.” The plan is designed to restructure the program in the face of continuing cuts to the program’s funding.

    “We’ve sustained budget cuts every year since 2008,” Wendy Root Askew, president of Friends of Parent’s place, said. “There’s been a doubling of tuition and fees, a drop in the number of people who can afford the program, as well as a cut to the number of supportive services we offer.”

    Due to the program being part of the Pacific Grove Unified School District (PGUSD), it receives funding from the state to operate. Prior to 2008, the funding model was based upon student attendance; the program received funding for each hour each child spent in the program. In 2008, the funding model changed, and this, according to Askew, is a critical problem.

    “Instead determining the amount of money by attendance, we received a block grant,” she said. “This immediately cut the amount of funding we received.”

    Further contributing to the problem, Askew said, is that prior to 2008, PGUSD could not use the grant, which covered the entire Adult Education Program, for any K-12 programs. However, starting in 2008 PGUSD could use the funding for either program.

    “They could make cuts to the Adult Education Program, and did,” Askew said. “There were huge decreases.”

    Friends of Parent’s Place designed the “Parachute Plan,” a new funding strategy to combat the continued budget cuts. The plan consists of a transfer of the program from the Adult School structure to one of a nonprofit, while maintaining a partnership with PGUSD.

    The partnership with PGUSD is integral to the success of the program, according to Coleen Beye, the transition coordinator, and presenter of the Parachute Plan. A partnership would include an in-kind donation of facilities use and utilities, with maintenance responsibilities shared between Parent’s Place and PGUSD.

    Moving to a nonprofit structure would also help the program in terms of fundraising, according to Beye. “Grant funders want to fund a nonprofit, not a school district program,” she said.

    City Councilmember Casey Lucius, an alumnus of Parent’s Place, voiced support for the program. “The City Council recognizes the importance of Parent’s Place,” she said.

    The program isn’t just good for the families involved, Lucius said, it is beneficial to Pacific Grove as a whole.

    “Families from outside of Pacific Grove come to Parent’s Place,” she said. “They come in for the day, they utilize places in Pacific Grove; our parks, our libraries. The program brings people here.”

    City Councilmembers Rudy Fischer, Daniel Miller and Ken Cuneo were also in attendance.

    Cuneo proposed that the program should involve someone with a business background to help with fundraising.

    “Idealists aren’t good money raisers,” he said. He also suggested going to, “fraternal organizations, such as The Rotary Foundation, or The Masonic Society” for possible contributions to the program.

    Heather Hubanks, representing the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce, also voiced her support for the program and the “Parachute Plan.”

    Current student of the program, Jay Tulley, the father of two children, explained what Parent’s Place meant to him and his family.

    “I’m here to give the dad’s perspective,” he said. “Parent’s Place was such an incredible help. We met other parents and went through it together. It was very reassuring. It’s in the DNA of our town, making our community healthier. It’s been a life raft.”

    Children’s book author Elin Kelsey read an original piece comparing the impact of the Parent’s Place program to that of the Chautauqua Movement, an adult education program of the late 19th century.

    “Parent’s Place is our modern day Chautauqua. Every day for the past 25 years, parents have been coming with their children to gain hands on experiences with parenting,” she read. “We would be foolish to underestimate the impact Parent’s Place is having today, and more importantly, the impact it will continue to have over the next 100 years.”

    The culmination of the meeting was a call to action, asking community members to speak to the school board and advocate for attention from the board and a continued partnership.

    “Be part of Parent’s Place,” Askew said. “Talk to the school board, request negotiation on their part.”

    Beye, who is also a student of the program, conveyed her satisfaction at the meeting’s turnout.

    “I’m so pleased,” she said. “There were a lot of supporters who came to the meeting, a lot of community members and leaders. I am so excited.”

    posted to Cedar Street Times on June 14, 2013

    Topics: Features, Front PG News, Kacie Clark

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