The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


July 4, 2014

School move to hold costs is commendable | Johnstown tab s agency for early education

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District will save $1.6 million by shifting programs for young children to a county agency.

Now the district must make sure the program serves those in pre-kindergarten and day-care ages, who are future learners for the elementary, middle and high school levels.

The district’s school board on Saturday approved shifting those programs to Cambria County Child Development Corp., which already oversees Greater Johnstown’s before- and after-school initiatives at West Side Elementary.

“In our budget situation, we’re going to look to continue the operations of preschool, but allowing (CCCDC) to be our operator,” Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak said Saturday at a meeting called to get the early-education decision settled before the June 30 budget deadline.

“They’ve operated pre-K classrooms,” Zahorchak said of the CCCDC. “They have a history of working with day cares and early childhood education – both through school age.”

Added CCCDC Executive Director Ron Kikta: “Research has shown that this (pre-K) is a foundation of learning for young children.”

Although details are still being worked out, the plan runs for five years, and helped the district adopt a 2014-15 budget that holds property taxes at the current level, 46.8 mills.

The district will turn to a veteran agency to work with its future students.

CCCDC was incorporated in 1972, its website shows, and supports programs for children across Cambria County.

“I consider this an innovative approach to early childhood education,” Kikta said. “The national trend has been to partner and collaborate with school districts.”

Zahorchak touted the district’s decision to maintain staffing levels despite outsourcing the programs.

“None of our instructors will be furloughed,” Zahorchak said, noting that teachers will be placed in educational roles for which they are certified – “or in an area they choose.”

We believe this is a positive – but not critical – component of the effort.

The district must find meaningful and necessary work for those it has pledged to retain.

There will be changes for families during the transition, and the district will need to communicate with parents along the way.

But parents should be confident concerning the new organization that will be serving their kids.

The Child Development Corp. believes “a rich intellectual, cultural, social and physical development is the right of every child.”

We agree, and urge Greater Johnstown officials to keep a close watch as this new chapter for pre-K and day-care rolls forward.

It is commendable that the district cares enough to provide services for students who are not even officially enrolled and learning in its classrooms.

Doing so with an eye on costs is appropriate and also commendable.


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