Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 has chosen an Evanston-based, for-profit company to run its aftercare program next year. On March 12 school board members voted 4 to 1, with one abstention, to authorize Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski to enter into an agreement with Right At School to operate an aftercare program next year at Brook Park School.
Right At School, founded nine years ago, runs before and aftercare programs for 71 school districts throughout the United States, including LaGrange-Brookfield School District 102 and 16 others in Illinois.
Five entities, including the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Department and the Community Park District of LaGrange Park, responded to a request for proposals from District 95.
On Feb. 27 the school board heard presentations from Right At School and another for-profit company called Champions, as well as the two municipalities. Afterwards the board discussed their options and narrowed the choice to Right at School and Champions as finalists. After site visits, administrators recommended Right At School.
Administrators and board members were impressed by Right At School’s experience and staff, which is mostly made up of people with backgrounds in education. They liked Right At School’s curriculum and academic approach.
“The community wanted programs that had homework help and structure,” said District 95 school board President Michelle Maggos.
Some board members said that it was just too big a risk to have Brookfield and LaGrange Park run the program, because they never had run after-school programs before.
“We shouldn’t be their guinea pigs to see if it works out OK,” said board member Scott Encher.
Encher liked that Right At School specializes in working with schools.
“That’s what they do; that’s all they do,” Encher said.
Board members were not impressed that both municipalities said that they would look to hire high school students to work in their program.
“I felt there was just a marked dissonance between what was offered and what was needed,” said board member Katie Mulcrone. “I think the kids need more structure.”
District 95 principals preferred a curriculum-based program such as Right At School offers.
Adam Case, the Chief Service Officer for Right At School, said that his company generally hires retired teachers, school aides who want to work a few extra hours, and students who are studying to be teachers to staff its programs.
“Our mission is to inspire a love of learning, to support schools, and to give parents piece of mind,” Case said.
Meagan McAteer cast the only vote against Right At School while Barbara Garvey, whose husband, Michael, is a Brookfield village trustee, abstained. Jacqueline Jordan was not at the meeting.
“I don’t have any qualms with Right at School. I think that they’ll be just fine,” McAteer said. “My qualm was with us privatizing it without any follow-up to the two municipal vendors.”
Stevie Ferrari, the director of the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Department was disappointed in the decision. Ferrari and Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg have spent much of the last year talking with District 95 officials about starting an after-school care program for District 95.
But the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Department will go ahead and still create a before- and after-school program geared towards District 95 students. The program will be housed in the basement of the Brookfield Village Hall, but District 95 will provide bus service to and from Brook Park School.
Kuzniewski said that running to buses from and to village hall should end up being cost neutral, because those students would likely also need bus service if they went directly to Brook Park.
The Brookfield Parks and Rec program will need at least 20 students to sign up for it moves forward. Parents will be able to sign for either before-school care, after-school care, or both.