Friday, September 22, 2006

Apple Tree

Who follows their college roommate to another state after graduation?

This is the question running through my mind while interviewing Evvy's prospective teacher, Megan, at Apple Tree Children's Center yesterday.

Megan is tall, athletic, sweet, kind, and timid. She's been the lead teacher in the two-year-olds room at the center for three weeks, having recently graduated with a degree in Elementary Education (note: this training has to do with first graders, not toddlers). Still, at least she has training with children. It's more than I can say for a lot of child care workers. But with the high turnover rates in child care providers nationwide, I can't help but wonder if Apple Tree is going to hold Megan long: She's not from Iowa City; she's here because of the aforementioned college roommate. She didn't go to school to become a teacher of toddlers; I'm guessing she'll want to put her teaching certificate to good use, which will probably mean moving back to Illinois.

I ask her if she sees herself staying at Apple Tree for a while, "I hope so," she says . . . hopefully. "We'll see how it all works out."

Though honest, this is a less than inspiring answer.


At 8:45 that morning, we rang the doorbell for our visit at Apple Tree, and the assistant director, who could see us through two sets of security windows, buzzed us in.

"Can I help you?" She asked in a voice that I interpreted as extremely annoyed.

"Um, well, we're here for a visit."

She got up from her chair behind the window-wall and in a moment appeared before us in the entry way.

"What's your name?"

Slowly it came back to her that she'd scheduled the visit yesterday on the phone with me. After that she was the epitome of professionalism, assembling handouts, escorting us to the two-year-old classroom to observe Evvy's prospective new teach, sitting with Evvy while we talked to Megan. Evvy was invited to sit down at a toddler sized table and eat cheerios with Jonathan, the only other toddler present so far. She smiled enthusiastically at, I presume, the furniture in her size--and the cheerios and milk, which she's never had before.

I think she'd be fine here. I think Megan would be fine with her. Unless Megan leaves, and then that would be not-fine.

I"m hoping for more than "fine."

I suspect I would have trouble with the administration at Apple Tree. During our Q and A session, the asst. director and director strike me as bearing a resemblance to car salesmen the way they so aggressively emphasize Apple Tree's positive qualities. When I ask about teacher turnover rates and teacher salary and benefits (two factors that are inextricably related), they "don't think" they can disclose all those details, but have I _ever_ heard of a child care center offering life insurance?? They do that here at Apple Tree.

"Do you assist the employees in paying the premiums?" I ask, thinking this could be as good a benefits package as Wal-Mart's where the employees work for the insurance.

"Apple Tree flat out gives them their life insurance," the asst. director cooes. Life insurance, schmife insurance. What about the stuff that costs money--the health care, dental, and vision?

Whatever. They seemed defensive, though I was trying my hardest to sound friendly when I asked how well they treated their employees. My friend K. says it makes her think all that money people pay is going to corporate headquarters (yes, Apple Tree is a "chain"), and not to employees.

We now move the investigation on to Home Daycare.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Trust your gut with the school. We had a heck of a time finding a good school (low turnover, trained and educated staff that actually want to be there) for our 3 yr old and finally found The Goddard School. It is also a chain but as with any place it's only as good as the owners and staff.
We couldn't be happier and one of our biggest concerns was turnover- it was the one of the MANY reasons we were leaving the previous school.
Goddard was very open that the teachers are expected to stay for an entire school year and sign a teacher contract.
It's been an extremely positive experience and I only wish we had taken him there sonner- your post definitely reminded me of the old place- ugh.
Good luck!
Enjoy reading you blog!