MILLBURN, NJ - At the second to last meeting of the school year, the Millburn Board of Education (BOE) announced the selection of a winning bid to provide childcare to elementary school families in Millburn, but not without some concerns from parents in the district.
The BOE had put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) looking for bids to provide before and after care program services to students in the district. During Monday's meeting, the BOE approved a hand-carried resolution in the business items section of the agenda that designated AlphaBEST Education as the winning bid.
The AlphaBEST program will run parallel to the town's other long-time aftercare provider Students After-School in Millburn (SAM). While SAM is run out of Glenwood school, with families who opted in bussing to the central location, the AlphaBEST program will start up in the other elementary schools.
SAM has been run in town for 24 years, and according to founder and director Jennifer Fischkoff is a non-profit. She said that almost all the money raised by the program goes back into student enrichment.
Fischkoff and parents who use the program were at the BOE meeting to raise concerns over what they saw with AlphaBEST coming into the community and what it means for SAM.
"I don't know how anybody is going to monitor the quality," Fischkoff said. "We self-monitor and we are open to anybody to come and visit...we're totally transparent. Parents love us, [because] they see what goes on. I'm concerned about another company who is not spending the same amount of money on staff."
"I don't think they're from the community so they're not as committed to specifically our community," "We don't keep staff for 10 to 23 years unless they're pretty passionate and part of a team."
Fischkoff also said that she was hoping to see more confirmed numbers from the survey that had been sent out to elementary school parents in the district, in order to gauge what the true level of interest was. Several parents who spoke noted the survey was not secured in the district and allowed parents to answer multiple times.
Jeff Ausfeld was one of the parents who came to speak at the meeting. Ausfeld has a child in Wyoming School and will soon have a second child in the district as well.
"To hear [the BOE] think they're not watering SAM down by this decision it's disheartening," Ausfeld said. He and other parents who spoke before the BOE said that if children are moved over to an AlphaBEST program at another elementary school in the district, it could cause a problem for the financial health of the SAM program.
"It's a revenue game, it's about numbers," he added."The more students in one place, the more efficient it is. When you start subdividing that out, it gets subdivided."
Ausfeld said that even though he does have to bus his child to SAM the benefit to his child will be having friendships in place when he goes to the fifth-grade academy at Washington School.
"They don't even have a contract," Ausfeld said, explaining why he was wary of moving ahead so fast. "All of the questions were fungible at best. And they went and voted for something they don't even understand."
After the meeting, BOE president Alex Zaltsman spoke with TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills
"The board is deeply committed to providing quality aftercare service to families with two working parents," Zaltsman said. "We believe that based on the information we have today, we've acted in the best interest of the community and needs of the community."
Zaltsman continued, and said, "The parents that will be using SAM will continue to use SAM and the parents that need local services will be able to get local services from each individual school. We have asked for monitoring [with AlphaBEST] to ensure that the quality is there."