It is important to hold our governing bodies and politicians accountable and to ask questions when things seem awry. It is equally important to celebrate when our systems of power and our representatives get something right. To that end, I want to take a moment to hold up a local success.
My daughter, Clara, attends Bright Start Learning Center. She enjoys going each day to spend time with her friends and teachers.
Just a few weeks ago, Bright Start faced some tough times. Like all childcare centers, Bright Start bears significant credentialing burdens and costs for its staff and facilities. At the same time, Bright Start strives to remain affordable for all families in our community. These twin challenges, meeting stringent operational requirements and remaining affordable, present a seemingly impossible formula.
Last month these challenges proved too much, and Bright Start had to close its preschool room for a few days while staff completed necessary certifications. The implications of this closure rippled among the families who rely on this daycare. Nanny-sharing and creative working arrangements cropped up — band-aid fixes for a problem that seemingly could have lasted much longer, especially when coupled with more protracted financial challenges.
Carrie Mallozzi, then interim director for Bright Start, working with Bright Start board president Katie Duggin, made a phone call. She reached out to Commissioner Sarah Mudge to ask if there was anything the county could do to help. Mudge and Mayor Greg Labbe contacted State Representative Julie McCluskie and Senator Kerry Donovan.
On the first day of the new legislative session, Representative McCluskie and Senator Donovan took phone calls from Bright Start board member Danny O’Brien, prioritizing our small mountain town and its tiny nonprofit daycare facility over their vast geographic and political representation responsibilities. Representative McCluskie and Senator Donovan reached out to the Colorado Department of Human Services to ask for waivers to grant Bright Start teachers and staff time to get the certificates needed to continue in their roles.
Recognizing the longer-term solvency problems, Mudge also called Director of Human Services Janeen McGee, who was able to leverage Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to keep Bright Start’s doors open. The result: Bright Start is open, families’ day care needs are being met, and the teachers and staff have gotten the necessary certifications to continue providing a safe and caring environment for many Lake County children.
As a parent of a Bright Start child, I am so grateful to all of these individuals — politicians, county staff, board members, and Bright Start employees — for coming together to support our family, our day care, and our small town.