Parents pitch business plan to JCC
Options being explored to keep preschool open
by Tamara Stokes
Parents of preschool children attending the Glencliff campus of the Jewish Community Centers (JCC) of Greater Dallas are working feverishly to save the preschool. Parents were to present a business plan to the JCC executive board last night during an executive board meeting.
The JCC decided earlier this month that it would close the Glencliff facility. For the first time in Dallas JCC history, officials say, the organization is $1.5 million in debt. Officials of the JCC and the parents working on the business plan declined providing account details for the Glencliff facility.
Parents are complaining that they were not alerted to the JCC's financial difficulties until the decision had been made to close Glencliff.
Individuals involved in formulating a plan to save the preschool would not disclose any of the proposals. One parent, David Grossman, said nothing would please him more than for a benefactor to come forward and help fund the facility.
Parents voiced their frustrations at a Feb. 18 meeting held with JCC officials, asking why they did not know until just four days earlier that Glencliff would be closing its doors Aug. 31.
The JCC executive board had been aware of the impending financial problems since last October.
"Why couldn't the board believe this group can tap into resources that haven't been reached and could have utilized sooner?" asked an angry parent to applause from the some 75 members who live in Plano and surrounding communities.
Jeff Seymour, JCC vice president, skirted the question, saying, "This is hard to understand. Last July, we [JCC] were desperately offering membership specials to get people to join. We had 49 people join the facility that didn't renew their memberships this year."
The JCC budget needed 750 membership units within two years to sustain Glencliff, according to officials.
Seymour and Jay Jacobs, JCC executive vice president, said the campus has 255 membership units, with 100 dropping from the rolls since since Sept. 11, 2001 when the economy began a downturn. Only 27 universal memberships (applicable for both the Northaven and Glencliff campuses) had been purchased by northern dwelling members.
"We are losing $200,000 a year in overall operating costs, primarily because of the economy," says Seymour.
Seymour said Glencliff has been supplemented by Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas capital campaign funds that are scheduled to cease in June. He said that scholarship assistance also was an issue because no child was turned away on the basis of financial need.
Jacobs said the turn of events in the sour economy could not have been predicted. The money salvaged by closing Glencliff and selling the campus will be put back into the main campus at Northaven, he said.
The building was purchased for $3.5 million; Jacobs said officials hoped to recoup $2.5 million by selling the property.
Jacobs encouraged parents, who had two more meetings with JCC officials over the weekend, to look at other preschool alternatives, including local preschools. Every Glencliff student who has registered by March 31 was promised a spot at the Northaven facility.
That was not met favorably, with one parent responding, "What alternatives, area churches?"
Robin Elkin, whose 5-year-old daughter, Ally, and 2-1/2-year-old son, Drew, attend the preschool, said, "This is the only place that meets our needs." Not only is Glencliff the only facility in Plano that promotes Jewish culture and identity, she said, but Drew has special physical needs, including a special diet. Elkin said she doesn't know what she'll do if the JCC preschool presence doesn't continue in the north.
Although Congregation Anshei Torah has opened a nursery school, it is not yet accredited and cannot handle special needs youngsters.
Grossman, who worked with several parents to review operating costs and write the business plan that was to be presented to the board last night, said this week, "The bottom line, is we've got a lot of concerned parents. We met this weekend with parents and Jay, and we need to work with the JCC to raise capital to keep the preschool doors open."
In a plea to JCC officials at last week's meeting, one parent, who did not wish to be identified, said, "Please take us seriously. The Jewish community has a strong presence in Plano. Benefactors need to see how important the preschool is to us. We may not be around for the Federation and the JCC in two years if you aren't there for us now."
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, February 27, 2003