Great Expectations victim of district budget cuts
When the Great Expectations teen parent education and day care program opened at Newberg High School in 1990, it served eight babies, eight teen mothers and five pregnant students.
As the number of teen pregnancies dropped over the past two and a half decades, the program adapted to meet other needs and developed into one of the highest rated child care programs in the state.
That included becoming the first program in Yamhill County, and one of just 42 in Oregon, to receive a five-star rating in 2014 shortly after the state implemented a new Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).
But with the program serving just two babies and three parents this year, that success was not enough to save it this spring as the Newberg School District faced a $1.3 million budget shortfall.
According to Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza, district leadership had to make protecting resources for classroom instruction for K-12 students the priority when building the budget. Because of the revenue it received from the state to educate teen parents has declined so significantly, the district estimated that it has been subsidizing approximately 70 percent of the overall program's costs.
In all, the move is expected to save the district $255,000 in 2017-2018.
"It's a high-quality program," LeBlanc-Esparza said. "It has done great things for our community for a couple of decades now. I look at it like it has served our community really well and the great problem we have in this is that we only have two teen parents now. Back in the day, in 1990 when this opened, there were a lot more teen parents and that's problematic."
Great Expectations also served as a hands-on learning environment for NHS students seeking careers in early childhood development and education, but assistant superintendent Dave Parker noted that the number of those students had been dropping as well.
"We're a school system, so we have six elementaries, two middles and two high schools in which we can have our students interact and learn about education," he said. "So there are other ways we can provide that. For the kids who want to do early childhood, we'll probably start looking at some internships with outside vendors."
Parker said the district will consult with state experts as it works to redesign the teen parent curriculum and program, but that day care services that support it will be provided off site by a third-party vendor. "The education pieces of working with teen parents won't really change," Parker said. "We know what we've provided in the past with our licensed staff and it will probably look pretty similar, but this was a good time for us just to make sure that our program has all the components that it needs to make sure we're supporting these students."
Great Expectations will certainly be missed as a day-care provider, though, as it served NHS staff and families from the community at large. Staff and clients were informed of the closure May 13.
Part of the reason the program is rated so highly is that all six of its instructors — Pam Grant, Amanda Gregory, Mary McClean, Bekkah Morgan, Christina Pilcher and Elizabeth Poznanski — have gone above and beyond minimum requirements by earning the Infant-Toddler Professional Credential from Portland State University and the Oregon Center for Career Development (OCCD).
Program director Susan Ludwig, who was one of the first in her position in the state to receive the then-new childcare director credential in 2013, declined to comment for the story.
Ingrid Anderson, who serves as credential programs coordinator for the Oregon Registry, lauded Great Expectations when it received its five-star rating in 2014.
"They've done an extraordinary job," Anderson said. "(Ludwig) is very dedicated to making her team successful and providing the best possible care."