If You Want to Make Change, Start with a Letter

I’ve spoken to many Shaker residents about the sudden closing of PDO preschool at Plymouth church. The school has been teaching and nurturing our kids for almost 40 years. Anyone who sent their kids there knows that they were different than other schools. Sure, they did science experiments and taught the essentials that our kids needed to learn to read, but they did so in a truly loving way.

My mom taught there for 15 of those years: Miss Darlene. My friends would ask me, “Is she really as sweet as she seems?” The answer is, “Yes.” She truly loved your kids.  I would egg her on and say, “Come on, Mom, there’s got a be a dud in the bunch…some kid you can’t stand.” And her reply was always, “No, they are all so wonderful.”

I see PDO alumni everywhere in town and their faces light up at the mention of PDO. Joseph Fehn told me, “I loved that place! They let us sled in the winter. What teachers do that?! I wish I could go there again”
Luke Zachariah, my son told me, “Mom, that was my favorite school ever. Remember when Michael did his presentation on that rock group Kiss?”

I feel sad not just that they’ve shut their doors but that it happened so suddenly. They weren’t even given a weeks notice. Plymouth Church is looking for another business to fill those rooms. I can’t imagine those spaces being filled with anything else besides giggling, joyful children.

Parents with 4 year olds whose children are one year from entering kindergarten had to scramble. It’s the most important year for those kids. Heck, all those parents who’d signed up for the 2017-18 year, are scrambling. The church didn’t handle it well. They were not fair, transparent or upfront about their plans.

I get it. It’s a business. At the end of the day, they want to make money. But it’s not good business to kick out a tenant without notice. I wish they had given PDO more time and a chance to rethink plans for next year.

So what can you do?
Some of you know, I live in NJ but “summer” in Cleveland (a story for another time). In my NJ town, we had a very similar situation. The local church who had housed and partnered with our preschool for 40 years, suddenly kicked them out. My daughter was 4; it was May; and preschools were filled up. I was panicked. And the more I shopped around for a school, the more I realized I didn’t want to go anywhere else.

The parents gathered together and rallied for the school:
• We wrote letters to the church
• Posted our thoughts on FB
• Met with the church’s board several times and convinced them to give us a week to give them a proposal to allow our beloved preschool school to stay.

We came up with a proposal so that the preschool would be able to stay in business:
Parents agreed to pay a little more in tuition–it was wroth it to us. I believe it was around 15%.
The school worked on marketing. They already offered science, math reading but had been branded as the “non-academic” option in a world where people were opting for Montessori and more academic places.
And the school offered a few extra afternoon options that parents LOVED and made more money for the school like Spanish, Afternoon of Art, Music in the Arts.

You have a voice. It’s this school is a place you love, make a quick call or send a note to Plymouth Church and let them know. You might be able to bring them back! We did it in Jersey!

Miss Judy, Miss Evette, Miss Jean, Miss Melissa, Miss Monica, Miss Jenny, Miss Darlene, Miss Karen.

And Jean, we know your heart is breaking,
but we love you and are so grateful to have had you in our kids lives!

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Author: Heather Zachariah

Former Art Director for Home Magazine, Heather Leahy Zachariah, left her career in publishing after baby number number one. She now works from home as a freelance graphic designer and a chauffeur to her 3 busy kids. "Working on TipsFromTown has been a wonderful outlet for me. It renewed my love of publishing where I can design colorful, enticing pages online and allows me to share the things I love about being a mom." Heather grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a place that still is near and dear to her. " After living in Brooklyn for 18 years and studying Graphic Design at Pratt Institute, she now lives in the Jersey burbs. "I love living so close to NYC, but in my heart, I'm an Ohio girl."


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