Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


bad apples in a coop?
October 5, 2011 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Is poor participation normal for a preschool co-op? And if so, how do we fix it?

My 3 year old is in a preschool co-op 3 days a week. There is a real teacher and parents rotate to be her assistant. Parents also do stuff like 'field trip coordinator' or 'webmaster' or whatever.

There are a number of families that do not/have not:
- joined the Yahoo group listserv
- turned in their kid's paperwork
- turned in their own paperwork
- signed up for a 'job'
- paid tuition
- respond to emails and voicemails about the above issues
- play dumb when asked about these issues during drop off/pick up and at this point they're sometimes rude

School has been in session for a month. The kids got into the preschool in June (and the listserv was created, people were told how to download the forms over 4 months ago.)

There is a rule that after 2 weeks of not paying tuition, there is a $20 daily fee (I upped it from a $5 weekly fee).

There are no hard and fast rules about kid being ejected... All the language is vague.

Yesterday the forms person told the families that haven't turned in the health forms that those parents can't serve their duty days and that next week, kids can't come anymore. (Unfortunately I am trying the get tuition payments from the same people...)

Now, the challenge is that tuition aside, if these people are gone, that's more days everyone else needs to serve... And there is a bit of a cushion, but eventually, the other families would have to pay more tuition.

For those of you that have done this before, are there always people like this in a co-op? And what to do? Kick 'em out? Do we try to extract the unpaid tuition from them or just get over it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total)
 
If they're not paying for an agreed service, one written warning, then kick 'em out.

They're consciously trying to be leeches.

I'm sure you could get replacements readily.
posted by wilful at 5:51 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it a new co-op?

One of my daughters spent a year at a co-op preschool that had been around for twenty years, and the rules were very entrenched and enforced by the director and a parent board. This school being in the Bay Area, there was a wait list a mile long so it would have been very easy to just expel the family and replace them, and that may not be the case for you.

I would say, do not allow families to drop off their children until paperwork issues and tuition payments are in order. And put some ads in local media advising that space is available.
posted by padraigin at 6:10 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of parents sign up for pre-school co-op without understanding the sheer amount of work that it entails - I know we did, and we withdrew our son once we realized that it was a time commitment we just could not afford to make.

There are other issues - is the teacher collaborative, warm and welcoming? Are expectations spelled out, and are tasks a genuinely valuable use of time, rather than busywork? Is the group dynamic collaborative and welcoming, or does a clique run the show?

I don't have any unique insights that will solve your situation in the short term, but the best thing to do for next year is create a contract or covenant that outlines responsibilities, and clearly spells out consequences for not living up to those responsibilities.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:29 PM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of possible use/interest is this policy:

I work full time. Is there any way for my child and I to be part of a co-operative nursery school if I can’t do parent helper days?

Yes, duty days do not necessarily need to be performed by mothers. Dads, grandparents, and other childcare givers are welcome to fulfill the duty day commitments given that they have a valid police check.

Duty days can also be scheduled around what days work best for your family. If something comes up on your scheduled day, it is also possible to switch days with another parent.

If necessary, it is possible to arrange to opt of parent helper days at the beginning of the year for a fee. ($25 per helper day to be paid to the covering parent– note: you are still responsible to provide the snack )


via
posted by kmennie at 6:34 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know about everywhere, but it's certainly not normal at our co-op. We've been there for three plus years now, and it runs like clockwork. But even starting year four, holy COW is it overwhelming, especially in September. One of the things I love about ours is that the director is very low key-- she knows it's overwhelming and is sympathetic and works with parents to be sure everything is taken care of. But she is also very clear that the regulations are about state licensing issues: if you don't get your TB test done, or you blow off your continuing education credits, you're not just inconveniencing the administration. You are putting the school's licensing-- and very existence at risk. So people may feel overwhelmed, but they by golly fill out their health forms.

Yeah. Wow. Co-ops. That's a love hate thing there. Some people are just not a good match. Fortunately, it's October, so I'm not feeling like quite so much one of them any more.
posted by instamatic at 7:05 PM on October 5, 2011


Co-ops vary. Ours is quite large (80-90 families) and so we've ended up with a fairly long & detailed list of duties and requirements. On the other hand, we are kinda crap at booting nonparticipating families b/c we end up being suckers for the kids. We also have had some not-so-nice disagreements that came in part b/c of vague rules around some things that turned out to matter.

We're trying to get a little tougher, but it is hard. Sounds like your co-op is small, which makes every bit of non-participation a bigger deal.

I would separate issues into three categories:
1. Stuff that could affect the school's license. Some paperwork might fall into this category. Really, there should be no kid allowed if there are any issues here. Sounds like your forms person is on that now, but really, they shouldn't have started w/out that stuff. Do not mess around with licensing! (Depending on state vaccination etc. may also fall into this.)
2. Stuff that is a big deal & a burden on everyone else if it doesn't get done (work days, tuition, etc.). This is the stuff to concentrate on now, and really have a plan to start enforcing. Not sure how leadership works at your school, but those of you who are leading (officially or otherwise) definitely need to meet and figure out how to deal with the non-participants. If you have rules for how to do that, follow the rules, otherwise just do it ad hoc.
3. Stuff that you can let a few families slide on but sucks if everyone does (meeting participation etc.) This year, I'd probably let that slide, this is something to work on for the next year with the participating folks.

It also sounds like you have a governance issue -- rules are vague, so consequences are hard to enforce. Depending on how your co-op is structured, you may need to be working on fixing that as well as dealing with the current issues.

Your state may have an association of co-ops. Use them! If CA this would be the CCPNS: http://www.ccppns.org/ -- if in CA, I would use their resources and then just call them and say "halp!"

Also, feel free to memail me privately if you wish, I can put you in contact with folks who have way more experience than I do for advice.

Finally: yes, there are just people like that. Some of them need some education, guidance, and leadership to be able to participate fully. Others just need to be removed, hard as it might be on the org and the kids, so they can find a place that is more suited to their needs. Co-ops are not for all families. Ours went through all manner of rough issues in the last few years -- I've found participating in it really rewarding for me and my kids, but I also am glad to be on an "in between kids" break this year.
posted by feckless at 7:58 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not normal at our (well-established) co-op. Yes, there are the families you can rely on to participate more and the families that do the bare minimum, but behavior as you describe? No. I feel for you; that sounds completely crazy-making. But also I am flabbergasted - how can you legally run with the situations you describe? Yikes!

There are a number of families that do not/have not:
- joined the Yahoo group listserv


We have nothing equivalent to this - all the forms are handed out before the start of the school year; if they're not completed and returned by the start of the year then that family is dropped from the roster. Families provide phone numbers and emails for the class list that is distributed to everyone so there is always a method of communication available.

- turned in their kid's paperwork
- turned in their own paperwork


At ours, your child can't attend until all this is in order. Period. The school can't run, per regulations, if we don't have that paperwork - so you aren't a member until you turn it in.

- signed up for a 'job'

The Board assigns jobs (we call them "committees") before the school year starts. Leaving it to the families to do would be chaos. Families can say what their preferred picks are but are told "you get what you get", there is no guarantee they'll get their pick.

- paid tuition

We require tuition paid in full or 10 post-dated checks (for every month of the school year) plus a deposit check (to cover a missed duty day or missed cleaning night) handed in before your child can attend.

- respond to emails and voicemails about the above issues
- play dumb when asked about these issues during drop off/pick up and at this point they're sometimes rude


The Board would vote to drop those families from the roster. Families that do not respond to communications about necessary issues such as tuition and duty days are warned - I like our handbook's wording: "they will be gently asked to evaluate whether or not this co-op is a right fit for them". But yeah, after three warnings, they're out. Co-ops don't work if there's deadweight so we have policies in place to ditch deadweight families.

Do you have a Board? Parents who are current members (children actively attending) serve on the Board of our co-op. We have six positions: a President, a Vice-President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, a Registrar (who is responsible for all the sign-up paperwork of all families), and a Fundraising Chair. The Board meets monthly throughout the school year and handles all the "heavy lifting" like making sure we're in compliance with regulations, running the orientation, running the budget, etc.

There is a rule that after 2 weeks of not paying tuition, there is a $20 daily fee (I upped it from a $5 weekly fee).

Seriously, once tuition stops getting paid, you're deadweight. This is why our school's policy is to get all members on the hook for tuition before they even start (with the post-dated checks - then you're not chasing families down for checks every month. Oh, and after two bounced checks, all further fees have to be paid up front in cash or your child cannot attend).

There are no hard and fast rules about kid being ejected... All the language is vague.

That's not good. Your Board should make policies about this. We definitely have a pile of policies about what will get you ejected. Then you just point to the policy when a case arises.

Anyway - co-ops are not for everyone. We're very up front to all applicants that attending our preschool means you have to fill the forms out, pay the money, do the duty days, do your cleaning days, do your committee work, attend the orientation, know the policies, etc. We have interested applicants come and attend a class with their child first before registration (if they can) so they can see exactly what the class does and what the duty parents do. It may be overwhelming, but people who don't have the time or who don't want to put in the time will usually know if they want to join or not pretty quickly; and if not they'll certainly figure it out after the big orientation meeting, the handbook with all the policies in it that we hand them at that meeting, the rotation of schedules to sign up on, the gentle pestering of the registrar to get all their forms in...

Now, the challenge is that tuition aside, if these people are gone, that's more days everyone else needs to serve... And there is a bit of a cushion, but eventually, the other families would have to pay more tuition.

Fundraising. We're a non-profit. We fundraise so we don't have to rely solely on tuition to meet all the needs of our school. It gives you a cushion if you run into big issues as well.

Anyway, you're more than welcome to MeMail me if you have other things to ask or want to pick my brain about efficient co-op running, etc. We've been attending our co-op preschool for five years so far (and will continue at least another three); I am currently on the Board so I can give you some ideas on policies and policy enforcement if you would like.
posted by flex at 7:59 PM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


In another child-care-related thread, somebody suggested that caregivers always be paid in advance. Moving forward, this might be a change to consider.
posted by box at 5:00 AM on October 6, 2011


« Older Can anyone recommend a headset...   |  Smartest way to consolidate a ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.