QCC’s early education cuts harm students and families

by Brandi Dewar and Erin Roache, leader teachers at Quinsigamond Children’s School

Quinsigamond Community College has cut the staff at the campus’ top-rated Children’s School, a move that is misguided as it eliminates the perspective of veteran educators when it comes to planning safe and effective early childhood learning strategies to employ during the coronavirus crisis.

Susan McPherson, president of the Quinsigamond Community College Professional Association, said that early childhood educators received notice in late June that they would be out of work through at least the end of 2020. Making matters worse, she said, they are being left out of the conversation about when and how a facility widely considered to be essential to the college’s Education Department and community should reopen.

The Children’s School enrolls approximately 55 children between the ages of 2.9 years and 5 years, many whose parents work or study at QCC, as well as come from the greater Worcester community. The school is also a training site for QCC students and is a model for social service agencies that work with young children and their families. Currently, there are more than 450 identified QCC students who hold some sort of education major with the college.

The Children’s School was the first to earn a top ranking from the Massachusetts Quality Rating and Improvement System. Educators at the Children’s School said that they could both provide guidance and work within the reopening guidelines established by the state Department of Early Education and Care.

“No one has asked how we as the teachers in the classrooms can apply the regulations into practice. Administrators are refusing to have conversations with us about a reopening plan. By hearing from the professionals in the early education and care program, QCC has an opportunity to make a plan for a safe reopening of the Children’s School,” said lead teacher Brandi Dewar. “We can be the model for reopening and reopen when the time is right.

Margaret Wong, president of the Massachusetts Community College Council, which represents faculty and staff at all of the state’s 15 community colleges, said community college presidents throughout the system are “victims of the COVID bubble — talking only among themselves” about how to confront the challenges higher education is facing.

She warned that by not engaging with faculty and teachers at the center and members of the community, the college “has made a disastrous decision that could undermine and destroy the early childhood program — which is one of the most successful programs at the college — altogether.”