Wednesday, March 26, 2008

SchCom: The Charlebois' statement

The text of the statement presented during the Citizens Comment portion of the School Committee meeting 3/25/08. The text was scanned from a printed copy provided by Amie Charlebois.

Hi, my name is Amie Charlebois and this is my husband David. I wanted to come before you tonight to ask that you make an assessment of my current situation with the FX O'Regan Early Childhood Development Center. I have approached the principal, Karen Seyfried as well as Wayne Ogden with this matter. Before I go any further, it has always been my understanding that the school department has what is in the best interest of each individual child.

I have 3 small children 5 years, 22 months and 4 months. My 5 year old son is at the end of his second year in attendance of preschool at ECDC. He attended 2 afternoons his first year and has been attending 5 afternoons this entire school year. My husband and I have been truly happy with his experience at ECDC and believe that it has laid a wonderful foundation for his education. I have faith that when my 2 other children attend ECDC, that they too will have the same wonderful experience.

Unfortunately, my family has recently undergone a severe financial hardship. My husband was badly injured in an accident at work and has recently undergone surgery due to that accident. The insurance company that deals with workers compensation has denied our claim and we are awaiting a hearing date. We have had a dramatic loss in income.

I brought my situation to Karen's attention and Karen told me there were scholarships available that I could apply for to assist with my sons tuition. I was very pleased to hear that we qualified for the highest level scholarship available with tuition that would cover 2 days and a reimbursement of my June deposit of $305. With the reimbursement, I would be able to apply that to the remaining 3 days for April and May and keep my son in the 5 day program he has been in since August. At a time in our lives when the reimbursement would be very helpful to put toward other household expenses, our priority is put that money toward our sons education. Karen informed me that I could not do that according to policy. It never once entered my mind that if I qualified for the scholarship, my son would only be able to attend school 2 days a week when he is enrolled in 5.

I signed an enrollment agreement last year accepting the 5 day program, a signed agreement, which is a binding contract between 2 parties stating my son is enrolled in the 5 day program. I am upholding my portion of the agreement and the ECDC is not. The policy states that scholarships are given out for 2 days and does not say anywhere that if you qualify for the scholarship your child can not attend the other 3 days as well. I told Karen that if I had known that was how the scholarship program operated, I never would have applied because again my son is in the 5 day program. Karen also informed me that the policy needs to be adjusted for next year and that she is in the process of "adding language" for next years handbook. Karen has stated to me the intent of the policy but I do not believe intent can be enforced.

But at this time, with 38 days left in the school year I am being told that in order to accept a scholarship that we qualified for, we can only use it by taking school days away from my son. My son who loves school and asks numerous times every morning "when are we leaving for school". At a time in my sons life when things are turbulent enough, I am being told that there is help available but that it will negatively affect my child if I accept that help. I feel that it is an absolute necessity to keep my sons school structure in tact, now on March 25, with 38 school days left in the year. My sons education is a priority especially in these early years. He would be devastated and confused if I had to take school days away from him at this point and I know that trying to explain to him that there are unclear policies that must be followed, will not help ease his hurt. Doing this to my son at this time would hurt him. My son is not taking a spot away from another child nor does it have any effect on anyone except for him. If this were October or November I would consider having to make certain adjustments with it being so early in the year but it isn't, it is almost April. I'm asking to be allowed to keep my son at the 5 day level, accepting the financial help from the scholarship that I qualified for to put toward the 2 days and I am asking ECDC to accept my money for the other 3 days of the week to keep my sons education consistent. There have been 3 different occasions, prior to our hardship that I have talked with my sons teacher about her feelings toward him attending the 5 day program, and she has said numerous times, that she believes my son is thriving in the 5 day program, he benefits from it and he needs consistency. I know his teacher of the past 2 years, has my sons best interest at heart. I am deeply saddened that amidst everything going on at home, I am required to fight in order to keep educational stability for a 5 year old boy, in a school that he truly loves. The ECDC Mission reads "The Francis X O'Regan Early Childhood Development Center's mission is to focus on the whole child and their family..." and every time I bring the attention and focus back to my son, I am told to refer to a handbook. All I am asking is for you to do what you already do when you make your decision, and that is to look at what is in the best interest of my child.

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