Col­lege might de­lay clo­sure of Fam­ily Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter

Part­ners push for Dec. 31 ex­ten­sion

Cecil Whig - - & - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— One month af­ter Cecil Col­lege an­nounced plans to close the Fam­ily Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter in Hollingsworth Manor in Septem­ber, the col­lege is con­sid­er­ing push­ing that dead­line back.

Cecil Col­lege has op­er­ated the cen­ter in part­ner­ship with the Mary­land Fam­ily Net­work, a pri­vate non­profit that ad­vo­cates for early ed­u­ca­tion, for more than 25 years. The cen­ter cur­rently serves more than 70 chil­dren from ages 6 weeks to 5 years old and their fam­i­lies through preschool and preK classes as well as par­ent­ing and GED classes.

The col­lege an­nounced last month that it planned to end its part­ner­ship with the MFN on Sept. 30 due to the loss of a $100,000 class­room grant as well as con­tin­ued fi­nan­cial un­cer­tainty re­gard­ing the cen­ter’s pri­mar­ily grant-funded ser­vices. If a new part­ner can’t be found by that dead­line, the cen­ter could close.

But in a meet­ing last week, the MFN asked the col­lege to con­sider op­er­at­ing the cen­ter through Dec. 31 to give it more time to find a new part­ner, MFN di­rec­tor Margaret Wil­liams said.

Cecil Col­lege said in a state­ment that it is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing this re­quest.

“Cecil Col­lege met with the Mary­land Fam­ily Net­work last week, and both en­ti­ties are com­mit­ted to serv­ing the fam­i­lies and find­ing a new op­er­a­tor,” the state­ment reads. “The col­lege will be get­ting back to the Mary­land Fam­ily Net­work soon with our de­ci­sion on keep­ing the MFN funded

ELK­TON

pro­gram­ming un­til the end of De­cem­ber.”

The col­lege’s de­ci­sion could also end up af­fect­ing the Mary­land Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, a pri­vate non­profit that serves the state’s ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, and leases space in the cen­ter to run one of its three county Head Start pro­grams, a fed­er­ally funded pro­gram that pro­motes school readi­ness for chil­dren from birth to age 5.

For its part, MRDC plans to con­tinue run­ning its Head Start pro­gram out of the cen­ter and is also “very in­ter­ested” in pos­si­bly step­ping into a big­ger role, said MRDC Head Start Di­rec­tor Marisol Ro­driguez, who em­pha­sized that talks are in the pre­lim­i­nary stages.

“We are aware of (Cecil Col­lege) pulling out,” she said. “Our com­mit­ment is to the fam­i­lies and we want to re­main in the build­ing.”

The cen­ter’s build­ing may also fur­ther com­pli­cate mat­ters. The build­ing, lo­cated on Road B in the Hollingsworth Manor neigh­bor­hood, is owned by the town of Elk­ton, which has been leas­ing it to the col­lege for $1 a year since 2002. That lease ends in 2017, although the town would like to see the pro­grams re­main in the build­ing, ac­cord­ing to Wil­liams.

The fact that the pro­grams have re­mained in the build­ing for so long is a tes­ta­ment to the some­what unique part­ner­ship that has ex­isted be­tween the col­lege and the MFN for so many years.

Cecil Col­lege is one of 26 or­ga­ni­za­tions that the MFN part­ners with through­out the state to run fam­ily sup­port cen­ters. Un­der this model, the MFN re­ceives grants to run early child­hood pro­grams and then del­e­gates this money to its part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions, which op­er­ate and staff the pro­grams. The col­lege also seeks out and re­ceives its own grants to fund pro­gram­ming.

Although this ar­range­ment is used through­out the state, Cecil Col­lege is the only col­lege that op­er­ates such a cen­ter. Cecil Col­lege Pres­i­dent Mary Way Bolt told the Whig last month that over the past 25 years, the cen­ter’s pur­pose has got­ten fur­ther and fur­ther away from the col­lege’s mis­sion.

Ideally, the col­lege would like to see an or­ga­ni­za­tion that spe­cial­izes in early ed­u­ca­tion step into the part­ner role, Bolt said.

The MFN re­mains com­mit­ted to see­ing that hap­pen and Wil­liams said she hopes the ex­tended dead­line might help them do just that.

“We hope by then to have a new del­e­gate agency in place,” she said.

CECIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Af­ter orig­i­nally an­nounc­ing it would close the Fam­ily Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter on Sept. 30, Cecil Col­lege is con­sid­er­ing ex­tend­ing that dead­line to Dec. 31.

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