To be more in line with other childcare centers in the state and to be more financially sustainable for the future, the Winona State University’s Children’s Center has made the difficult decision to restructure its staffing organization.
“After multiple years of budget deficiency, the University has made the decision to take a hard look at how and why the Children’s Center runs at a deficit,” said Children’s Center Director Cheryl Vogel.
On average, the Center posts annual losses of $150,000. Being a state funded institution, WSU has to be responsible to taxpayers. Continuing to run the Center at a $150K loss each year is not an option.
University leadership considered raising its rates to right–size budgetary issues, but with childcare at the Center already being one of the most expensive resources in the area, putting the financial weight on parents was not a viable option. Instead, the restructuring will follow established norms and practices in early childhood education, using assistant teaching positions in classrooms and licensed teaching positions for supervising and lesson planning. The restructure will convert eight out of the nine current teaching positions to assistant teaching positions at a lower pay scale to mimic other models across the state.
“This was not an easy decision as we know it greatly impacts eight teachers who have dedicated their time and passion to the Center, to WSU education students, and to children,” Vogel said.
The Center will remain fully open and operational throughout the transition, serving currently enrolled families. The current teachers will remain in their roles through early September and are eligible to apply for the assistant teaching positions.
“The assistant teachers will hold credentials and meet the requirements to ensure that we remain compliant with state licensing regulations and our national accreditation,” Vogel said.
The assistant teaching positions will require staff to be teacher qualified rather than licensed through the state. Staff will need an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education or Child Development and two years of direct classroom experience or a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education or Elementary or Special Education, along with one year of direct classroom experience.
The restructuring of the center will also create enhanced opportunities for WSU education students, allowing them more time with assistant teachers to be mentored and guided.
With the center’s current structure, all nine lead teachers are in every classroom and are directly responsible not only for teaching the children in their classroom, but for lesson planning as well.
With the new model, two licensed teachers will create lesson plans for all areas and won’t be in classrooms as often. Instead, the assistant teachers will be in the classrooms and will spend the entire day helping to guide children as well as mentor the education students.
“The Center will also continue to be a resource for the College of Education academic programs and others across campus who use it to enhance student learning,” Vogel said.
The restructuring will not impact the quality of education Winona has come to expect, Vogel assured. The Center’s mission of giving quality care and early education to children along with exceptional education to WSU students with real life experiences with children, will remain the same.
The Center is looking forward to opening back up to the community and increasing the number of children as COVID restrictions are eased.
Vogel said it’s a devastating situation and there’s no easy way to handle the change.
Although it will be difficult, Vogel said she’s confident the new model will not diminish quality of care and education.
“We will not allow quality to slip and we will not allow education to slip,” she said. “That is our driving force.”
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