Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Structural Changes in Afterschool Programs

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Structural Changes in the Kyrene Kids Club Program

Kyrene Kids Club offers school-age children a variety of planned activities before and after school. Children have club choices that include cooking, science exploration, board games, sports, arts and crafts, and homework assistance. As stated in the brochure, “Kyrene Kids Club is a program designed to highlight children’s self-awareness, cognitive expansion, physical development, creative expression and recreational pursuits.”

The Kyrene School District has been my employer for three years, and I have found my position to be very rewarding. I know I am making a positive impact on the children from the feedback I have received from many of the parents. Though my enthusiasm for what I do remains high, my confidence in the program has diminished.

Over the last few years, I have noticed a dramatic decline in the quality of the Kyrene Kids Club program. Decreases in school supplies, enrollment, and staff members are evident. The unstable economy is definitely one of the factors leading to these problems. Nevertheless, the main reason behind the decline in quality is poor decision making by the district office executives. Three areas that management could improve are budgeting, marketing, and human resources.

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In order to have a successful childcare center, substantial funding is essential. The administrators implemented drastic budget cuts because of prior financial mistakes. In light of this limited budget, funds must be used wisely. The hiring process at Kyrene Kids Club is a costly one. Extensive background checks are required in the field of childcare. Considering the cost, keeping the trained and qualified employees is essential. However, the district office replaces site coordinators yearly. These coordinators are often frustrated with the bureaucracy of the school district and resign or have been fired over a technicality. I have witnessed coordinators lose their jobs due to unjust reasons or false allegations on several occasions. Most of them were very good at maintaining their site and were well respected by the community, not to mention the employees who worked for them. In order to rectify this ongoing problem, the district office must offer incentives, whether they are small raises, gift certificates, or other prizes. Keeping competent employees and rewarding them in some monetary measure for their efforts should be a priority that will save the company a large amount of money.

The main competition for Kyrene Kids Club is the childcare program run by Phoenix Parks and Recreation. It is a program similar to Kids Club, except the Arizona Department of Health Services does not license it. Even though the child to staff ratio is unreasonably high, and counselor’s childcare training is limited, there is a growing enrollment in this after-school program. By allocating funds through the city of Phoenix, Parks and Recreation can offer its services free of charge. This program accepts donations but does not require them. Conversely, the Kids Club program charges $00 per month for each child. This charge does not even include the camps offered during the winter and spring breaks or additional enrollment fees. As a matter of customer service, things such as quality supplies and field trips would justify the high cost of the program. Marketing the program in this manner will definitely improve enrollment.

Recently, the administration implemented a new school-age curriculum that aligns the Kids Club program with district goals for student achievement. The basic premise of this idea is to enrich children’s lives even after school is over. This concept looks great on paper, but not when the staff member must implement it. With this new program, all the activities that club leaders arrange need to correlate with what teachers are teaching in the classroom. As a result, the district must spend more money for additional time needed in the extensive planning of these activities. Furthermore, children do not want to participate in social studies or reading activities after they have been at school for nearly seven hours; they want to build with Legos or make a dinosaur out of paper towel rolls and green paint. Management personnel making these decisions do not have the field experience to realize what the children really want and need in an after school program. Club leaders and coordinators, who work directly with the children on a day-to-day basis, need to assert their opinions in order for the program to improve.

Childcare is a business that is successful if the children are happy and want to participate. Parents also need to be satisfied that qualified and nurturing staff members are caring for their child. If the children and parents both meet these criteria, the program will thrive. If management spends money wisely, markets by highlighting the strengths of the services, and utilizes employee feedback, Kids Club could turn itself around to be the premiere childcare program that it once was.

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