Niskayuna

Mistake delays creation of pre-k program in Niskayuna

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NISKAYUNA Parents in the Niskayuna Central School District will have to wait a little longer to see if their kid can participate in a new universal pre-kindergarten program the district is trying to create after the district had to reissue a request for proposals to organizations. 

Board President Kim Tully said Thursday that during a special board meeting early Wednesday morning the board voted to reissue the RFP. 

On Friday the school district had a full-page legal notice published in the Gazette and also posted information about the RFP and how to apply on its website – steps that it didn’t take the first time around. 

The change was much needed, said Kelly Olsen, a co-owner of Kiddie Car Nursery School. However, she said given the limited timeframe to apply, she doesn’t see how organizations will be able to get plans in place. 

Prior to the school board’s Tuesday evening meeting and then during the meeting, Olsen raised concerns that the district’s process would be neither fair nor equitable if it moved forward with a contract with the Schenectady Jewish Community Center given many other organizations hadn’t even received the RFP the district said it sent by mail. A contract was anticipated to be approved with the JCC at the Tuesday meeting but was removed. 

The district first announced its plans with the JCC at its April 12 meeting. 

“I know for certain we did not receive an RFP,” Olsen said at the meeting. “We’ve been looking for one. We looked in the papers, we looked on social media, we checked our mail, we never got one.” 

Olsen said that upon speaking to Assistant Superintendent Marie Digirolamo and interim Superintendent Juliette Pennyman, she learned the district mailed out RFPs to organizations based on an outdated list. The list was at least a decade old, Olsen said. She said her business address was not correct even though the district should have the accurate address on file since the company receives other mailings from the district. On top of that, Olsen said, three of the major feeder schools for the district– Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish School, Niskayuna Reformed Church Nursery School and Preschool and Niskayuna Community Daycare – were also not on the list. 

There were also four businesses on the list that are no longer open, Olsen said. 

“I spent my spring break calling every school on the list,” she said. “I only found three institutions besides the JCC that received an RFP. Sixty-six percent of the schools that I was able to get into contact with did not receive an RFP.”

The district has chalked the situation up to an “inadvertent error.”

“We’re committed to moving forward as quickly as possible using a robust process, as we know the benefits of early childhood education are invaluable to our families,” said Roberto LoBianco, the district spokesperson. “We’re confident that a high-quality universal pre-K program will be in place for the fall to provide children with positive early learning experiences that help prepare them for school.”

LoBianco said the RFP was also mailed to organizations based on a new current list. The district did not provide that list upon multiple requests. 

The proposed plan with the JCC called for providing pre-k to 50 kids that resided in the district through a lottery process. That process was expected to take place mid-May. However, new RFPs must be in by May 20.Vendor will be interviewed in late May, with a decision to be made no later than June 6, according to the RFP.

“The Schenectady JCC followed the guidelines given to us for responding to the Universal Pre-Kindergarten RFP,” said David Posner, the CEO of the JCC’s of the Capital Region. “While we are disappointed by this temporary delay, we, too, agree that these types of procurement opportunities should be conducted appropriately and to the letter of the law. We look forward to responding to the next RFP and are confident that our proposal will again be looked on favorably.”

Olsen and co-owner Maura Castle said they already have 40 families registered for next year and other places are likely in the registration process now too. Olsen said she was told by the district that the first RFP was sent in November and then again in January. 

“Twenty days isn’t a lot of time,” Olsen and Castle said. 

Because of the time constraint and given they’ve already registered families for next year, the two owners said it’s unlikely they’ll be able to put in an RFP. 

 Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at SB_DailyGazette. 

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