Campus Updates

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Child Care Committees

Most Recent Update

April 19, 2022

As the transition of the Gorse Children’s Center from Bright Horizons to Valley Opportunity Council (VOC) has continued, we wanted to give an update on the progress that has been made.  

To date, VOC has held seven information sessions for families and their mobile office has been on-site for parent and staff visits 13 times. These information sessions will continue with the next one scheduled later this month.

 VOC has made offers to all full-time staff interested in remaining with the Gorse Children’s Center and to date, 21 have committed to staying on as VOC employees. We are very happy that VOC has been able to build competitive salary and benefits packages and that most of the staff have chosen to remain with the center.

The current Director, Sherralee Proulx, has decided not to continue with Gorse after June 30, 2022. We thank Sherralee for stepping into the director position last year and for supporting the children and families during a challenging year full of COVID restrictions and the lead-up to this transition.  

VOC is excited to announce that they have hired the current Health and Safety Director Ashley Goff as the Center Director and has hired current teacher Jessica Roy as the Center Assistant Director. Both appointments are effective July 1, 2022. Both Ashley and Jessica are excited to take on these leadership positions and to continue their work with Gorse families well into the future.   

With a need to transition from one operator to another, the Center will close at the end of the day on June 30, 2022, and will reopen on July 11, 2022. During the closure, the Center will be deep cleaned and spruced up. VOC will use that time to work with their staff to plan for the year ahead, provide training and set up classrooms so all will be ready for the children to have a summer of learning and fun. 

In order to aid in the transition, VOC has agreed to honor commitments and plans made based on Bright Horizon summer and fall placement policies. These policies will be evaluated fully in the coming year and future policies will be determined and announced to Center families in early 2023.

In addition, the College has agreed to extend the Gorse scholarship program to eligible Mount Holyoke families who are not eligible for a Massachusetts subsidy for one additional year as we consider the future of that program.    

Once VOC operations begin in July, the work of appointing an Advisory Committee will begin. The membership of the Committee will be announced in the fall and will include members of the Mount Holyoke community. 

And finally, we are extremely excited to announce that beginning in the fall, Mount Holyoke Dining Services will provide food (breakfast, snack and an optional lunch program) for the Center. Dining Services looks forward to providing healthy and local food for the children to fuel their learning and growth. VOC will provide more information about this new partnership and the cost of the optional program with families in the coming months.  

VOC staff are excited to begin welcoming families into the Center to participate in their children's learning through family engagement and volunteer opportunities. They look forward to providing a high-quality early education program with low teacher/child ratios, with teacher/child interactions that are positive, supportive and nurturing and establishing a diverse learning environment that is inclusive, child centered and promotes social emotional development.

Any families who are interested in enrolling their children at Gorse should reach out to VOC at gorse@valleyopp.com

February 10, 2022

It has been two weeks since the College announced a transition in management of the Gorse Children’s Center from Bright Horizons (BH) to Valley Opportunity Council (VOC). The transition plan includes giving regular updates to the community. 

As we’ve worked through these first days, here is where the focus has been:

  • VOC has provided a welcome letter to all employees at the center and has invited them to a variety of in-person and remote welcome events. These events will continue in the coming weeks. 
  • MHC, VOC and BH all agree that retaining staff at the center is a top priority. To that end, we have established a staff retention plan which includes retention bonuses to be paid out to and through the transition. All center staff will have received the details of this plan from BH by the end of this week.
  • VOC has provided a welcome letter to all families currently using the center and has invited them to a variety of remote welcome events over the coming days and weeks.
  • MHC, VOC and BH are working on strategies to ensure that families who have requested enrollment information or put their name on a waiting list before the transition was announced are shared appropriately. Any family that feels they are in this situation should reach out to VOC at gorse@valleyopp.com to provide their information for cross-checking with BH records.
  • VOC will be holding information sessions for those faculty, staff and parenting students who don’t currently use Gorse but are interested in learning more. If you are interested in learning more about how a child in your life might benefit from enrollment at Gorse, please email gorse@valleyopp.com to receive information about upcoming information sessions.

Thanks to all who have reached out with feedback as we have worked through the announcement and launch of the transition to VOC. Please continue to reach out as questions or suggestions arise.

Sincerely,

Shannon Gurek, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer
Jennifer Jacoby, associate professor of psychology and education and director of first-year seminars
Co-chairs of the Childcare RFP Committee

January 26, 2022

Mount Holyoke College has selected Valley Opportunity Council (VOC) as its provider for on-campus childcare starting on July 1, 2022. VOC currently operates five child care centers in Holyoke and Chicopee for children ages 1-5 and three programs located within the Holyoke Public Schools. They provide a complete education program, meals and opportunities for parent involvement and provide after-school care at their Chicopee locations. VOC is committed to delivering early-infant through school-age care at Gorse Children’s Center. 

Bright Horizons will continue their services at Gorse Children’s Center until June 30, 2022. VOC is committed to ensuring that all currently enrolled families at Gorse will receive continuous care as the Center transitions between providers. 

VOC will prioritize College community members for child care; this includes faculty, staff and parenting students. Additionally, they will provide quality childcare for families at all income levels by utilizing state-provided subsidies to eligible families. The Center will continue to serve children ages six weeks to six years as well as before and after school care.  

Mount Holyoke, Bright Horizons and VOC have developed a staff retention plan for the teachers and administrators currently working in the Center. It is our hope that those currently caring for the children will continue with the new provider, which will give continuity and reduce uncertainty as much as possible for all those involved.  

When searching for a new childcare provider for the Gorse Children’s Center, the Child Care Review Group prioritized these key issues: the ability to work with Mount Holyoke to maintain and expand on an incredible academic and quality child care program in accordance with the College’s mission and priorities; willingness and ability to accept subsidies and state vouchers; the capacity to collaborate with the academic programs at Mount Holyoke College; and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in alignment with the College’s anti-racism action plan

We would like to give special thanks to the Childcare RFP Committee who worked tirelessly through the extensive proposal process, including meeting with vendors, touring facilities and finding our vibrant new partner in VOC. 

Additionally, we’d like to thank everyone in the community who spoke to the Child Care Review Group and/or responded to the childcare survey. The committee worked with a broad cross-section of people who represent the diverse child care needs of Mount Holyoke employees, parenting students, and the wider South Hadley community, including users of the Gorse Children’s Center.

We also thank Bright Horizons, which has provided quality child care at the Gorse Children’s Center for the past decade.

The Childcare RFP Committee will be hosting a virtual meeting on Friday, January 28, at 3 pm ET Mount Holyoke staff, faculty and students to introduce VOC. Additionally, VOC will be holding meetings next week with the staff of the Gorse Children’s Center and the families currently using the center. Those invitations will be delivered directly to those groups. To reach out to VOC directly please email gorse@valleyopp.com

—Shannon Gurek, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer; and Jennifer Jacoby, associate professor of psychology and education and director of first-year seminars
Co-chairs of the Childcare RFP Committee

December 15, 2021

The Child Care RFP Group continues to evaluate proposals from external providers for on-campus childcare. While the details of discussions with providers are confidential, the group is optimistic about the proceedings and expects to share additional updates in January. To summarize the work to date: 

  • In spring of 2021, a Child Care Review Group was established to lay the groundwork for establishing long-term and affordable quality child care on Mount Holyoke’s campus. The committee was charged with identifying and representing the diverse child care needs of Mount Holyoke employees, parenting students and the wider South Hadley community through broad consultation, including users of the Gorse Children’s Center .
  • In order to assess needs, the group issued a survey in May 2021 which received 756 responses. In addition, members met with a variety of stakeholders, including campus partners involved in academic connections between the College and Gorse Children’s Center, an expert in cooperative business models, parenting students and representatives from the local community.
  • In June 2021 the group issued its report  which identified desired priorities. In July 2021 a Child Care RFP group was formed to lead the process to identify an operator for Gorse Children’s Center and the College issued a request for proposals on August 13, 2021.
  • As was shared in the September 8 update, the RFP detailed the following as key issues for consideration:
  • Prioritization of MHC community members (faculty, staff and students) for child care. Capacity/willingness to collaborate with the academic programs at MHC.
  • The willingness and/or current ability to accept subsidies and state vouchers.
  • The willingness and ability to work with the College to maintain and expand on an incredible academic and quality child care program in accordance with our mission and priorities.
  • A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in alignment with the College’s anti-racism action plan.
  • The call for proposals was proactively shared with more than 80 area childcare providers with a due date of September 20, 2021. The RFP group received four proposals which are under review. The RFP group expects to finish their work over the next month and will have more information to share in January 2022.

The Child Care Committees page on our website remains the best source for up-to-date information regarding this work. If community members still have questions or concerns, please  reach out to any member of the RFP committee, including co-chairs Shannon Gurek and Jennifer Jacoby. The group thanks all who have engaged thoughtfully with this work, and looks forward to sharing updates in January. 

 

December 10, 2021

The work of the Child Care RFP Group continues and we feel very optimistic about child care options for our campus. While details of proceedings are confidential, the review continues and we expect to have further information to distribute in January. 

CCRFP (Child Care RFP) Committee Membership:

  • Shannon Da Silva, Associate Director of Equity and Compliance, Title IX & 504 Coordinator
  • Jaime DeCaro, Associate Director, Office of Student Involvement
  • Gary Gillis, Norman Wait Harris and Emma Gale Harris Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences; Associate Dean of Faculty; Director of the Science Center 
  • Hannah Goodwin, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies
  • Shannon Gurek, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer, co-chair
  • Jennifer Wallace Jacoby, Associate Professor of Psychology and Education; Director of First-Year Seminars, co-chair 
  • Paul Kandel, Associate Vice President for Strategic Projects
  • Cynthia Legare ’82, Benefits and Training Manager, Human Resources
  • Julie Parks, Accounting Manager-Disbursements and Grants, Financial Services
  • Kera Pingree, ‘23, Francis Perkins Scholar and parenting student
  • Julie Russell, Executive Assistant / Administrative Support Specialist
  • Stacey Wikar, Purchasing Director

Updates

December 10, 2021

The work of the Child Care RFP Group continues and we feel very optimistic about child care options for our campus. While details of proceedings are confidential, the review continues and we expect to have further information to distribute in January. 

September 8, 2021

The Child Care Review Group has continued its work through the summer and on August 13, 2021, released an RFP (request for proposal) to provide childcare services at Gorse Children’s Center beginning on July 1, 2022. The proposal was sent to over 80 area childcare providers and responses are due by September 20. To date, 9 potential operators have shown interest in providing a proposal.

The RFP details the following as key items under consideration as we look to a future provider:

  • Prioritization of MHC community members (faculty, staff and students) for child care. Capacity/willingness to collaborate with the academic programs at MHC.
  • The willingness and/or current ability to accept subsidies and state vouchers.
  • The willingness and ability to work with the College to maintain and expand on an incredible academic and quality child care program in accordance with our mission and priorities.
  • A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in alignment with the College’s anti-racism action plan.

The College has encouraged providers of all backgrounds to bid including, but not limited to, Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises, Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises,Veteran Business Enterprises, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Business Enterprises and Disability-Owned Business Enterprises.

All proposals received will be kept strictly confidential. The group will review proposals once received, interview potential providers in October and will work to finalize the next contract by December 31, 2021.

July 22, 2021

With the report and recommendations of the Childcare Review Group in hand, the College has transitioned and empowered a smaller group that is working to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to potential childcare providers later this summer. 

To that end, a Request for Information (RFI) was sent to over 80 local and regional childcare providers on July 16, 2021. The intent of the RFI is to inform the providers that a Request for Proposal will be coming out in the near future, and to give them an indication of what some of the highest priority items will be when the College considers proposals. It will also help the College get an early indication of how many providers might be interested in proposing for the contract. If you would like to request that the College send it to a potential provider, please email swikar@mtholyoke.edu

Additional updates from the Childcare RFP group will be posted here in the coming weeks. The RFP group includes several members from the Childcare Review Group, as well as finance and procurement staff and a parenting student.

Committee Membership

Co-chairs

  • Gary Gillis, Norman Wait Harris and Emma Gale Harris Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences; Associate Dean of Faculty; Director of the Science Center  
  • Jennifer Wallace Jacoby, Associate Professor of Psychology and Education; Director of First-Year Seminars 

Members

  • Nicole Amrani, Department Coordinator, Departments of Physics and Astronomy
  • Shannon Da Silva, Associate Director of Equity and Compliance, Title IX & 504 Coordinator
  • Jaime DeCaro, Senior Administrative Assistant and Office Manager, Office of Student Involvement
  • Corey Flanders, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Education
  • Hannah Goodwin, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies
  • Abigail Hoover, Museum Registrar/Collections Manager, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
  • Cynthia Legare ’82, Benefits and Training Manager, Human Resources
  • Jessica Maier, Associate Professor of Art History
  • Julie Parks, Accounting Manager-Disbursements and Grants, Financial Services
  • Marta Sabariego, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Behavior
  • Ananya Singh ’22, MHC Student

Updates

June 22, 2021 | Final Report: Executive Summary

Following the community’s response to the February decision not to renew the Bright Horizons’ contract with Gorse Children’s Center for fiscal year 2021–2022, the College secured a one-year extension to ensure continuity of care for families with the understanding that we would conduct a thorough study of community child care needs, Gorse’s role in meeting those needs, and other models of sustainable child care facilities in the state. To that end, President Stephens charged a Child Care Review Group (CCRG) with providing recommendations for sustainable, long-term, on-campus child care going forward. The membership was finalized in April 2021, and after early meetings in which the group came to a shared agreement about goals and priorities, the committee divided into three working subgroups focused on: 

  • Creating, implementing and analyzing a survey of community childcare needs; 
  • Analyzing Gorse’s operations (including contracts, enrollments, and budgets) in the context of other local child care facilities; and 
  • Studying the operations of other child care centers/models. 

This report summarizes the work of these three subcommittees in the three subsections below and culminates in the committee’s recommendations.

Brief Overview of the National Child Care Context

In order to contextualize the Gorse situation, it’s important to consider the national landscape of child care. The lack of affordable child care in America is so problematic that it has been called a crisis, an epidemic and, in comparison to other wealthy countries, an embarrassment. Middle class families spend 14% of their income on child care. Lower-wage workers spend more than twice that proportion of their income -- 35% -- on child care. Most child care workers barely make a living wage, and this income insecurity is worse for women of color who work in the child care field. Given the already steep costs of child care in the US, asking parents and families to pay more for child care in order to provide minimally-reasonable wages to child care workers is not a solution. President Biden’s American Families Plan acknowledges that the subsidization of child care cannot rest on the wages of the families. Support for child care must come from elsewhere, but so far, there is only so much the government has been empowered to do. This situation leaves employers in the position of needing to evaluate what they are able to do to support parenting employees, and in particular, support the retention of working mothers in the workforce. 

Survey Subgroup Report

This subgroup created, advertised, and analyzed a comprehensive survey of the campus and broader communities related to childcare. Through broad outreach and advertisement of the survey, we obtained a sample of 669 participants. A full summary of the survey findings are provided in the CCRG Survey Executive Summary. The primary findings identified are:

  • There is strong support for continued on-campus child care, including infant care; 
  • Cost is a major barrier to utilizing current on-campus child care, and there is a robust request for future on-campus options to be more affordable for Mount Holyoke students and employees; 
  • Child care is valued on-par with other employee benefits (i.e., not as more or less important than other benefits); 
  • There are some differences across race and gender, as well as between faculty and staff, regarding on-campus child care priorities; and
  • Members of the surrounding communities who use Gorse, or plan to use it, have similar reasons for choosing it, including the teachers, location, hours of operation, and range of services.

Gorse Financial / Contract / Enrollment Subgroup Report

This subgroup was tasked with providing an overview of the historical and current state of financial and enrollment data related to the operations of Gorse. In addition to reviewing the various costs associated with Gorse, the work of this subgroup included an analysis of the current and projected enrollment statistics, and the historical application of the existing scholarship structure. This subgroup also reviewed relevant financial information from other local child care facilities for comparison. Some of the primary findings are:

  • Over the past five years, Gorse has averaged 75-80 full-time equivalent children (FTE), which is below the maximum capacity of the physical space;
  • Mount Holyoke developed a scholarship program for employees over a decade ago but this has not led to increased employee enrollment at Gorse; 
  • Between 2017-2020, children of Mount Holyoke employees accounted for roughly 1/3 of all FTE children;
  • In addition to paying a management fee, the College provides support to Gorse through the rent-free provision of the building, regular maintenance, including snow removal and grounds-keeping, and funding to support the relationship between academic programs and the Center; and
  • In the Pioneer Valley, many of the most expensive child care options are associated with the five colleges.

Other Models Subgroup Report

This subgroup explored how other colleges approach childcare benefits: if they had centers, what management models those centers employed and with what cost and quality implications (to the extent that could be determined); and what other benefits, if any, were offered either in addition to, or instead of, on-campus care. The group’s primary focus was on benefits offered by colleges fairly comparable to Mount Holyoke in terms of size, endowment, and location/context, though this subgroup also considered a larger range of child care centers and benefits possibilities to determine aspirational opportunities and/or approaches that might be adapted to the circumstances of Mount Holyoke.

This involved preliminary research of published employee benefits and exploring college daycare center websites, from which the group identified trends and patterns worth further investigation. The group then compiled a list of colleges and centers to contact directly and members spoke with the directors of several college child care centers to learn more. The primary findings identified are:

  • Colleges with child care centers often offer various tuition-mitigation strategies for their employees to make use of the center (discounts and scholarships seem to be the most common);
  • Vouchers for staff and faculty to apply to external child care seem to be very uncommon;
  • Child care facilities with infant care need subsidizing; none of the interviewed schools that included infant care in their portfolio were able to support it without additional investment or additional offerings in their programming;
  • Infant care drives up costs significantly but is a vital and scarce resource;
  • Additional offerings that supported the subsidization of infant care included robust after-school programs and summer camps for school-age children;
  • There is a child care trilemma (quality, affordability, availability) that each college-affiliated center grappled with in different ways. The nature of this trilemma is that it is essentially impossible to improve quality, pricing and availability simultaneously; and 
  • The three most common models at college-affiliated child care centers can be described as: the college subsidizes a for-profit child care provider, the college subsidizes a non-profit provider, and the college establishes its own center and operates it as an extension of the institution.

Recommendations

Based on the extensive work completed in the subgroups, the entire CCRG then considered and submitted a list of recommendations to President Sonya Stephens. These recommendations, submitted on June 15, 2021, resulted from primary and secondary research that included a community-based survey, a review of relevant local and national child care programs, interviews with child care program directors, and conversations with multiple community representatives, including parenting students, current Gorse families, local workforce specialists, early education experts, and faculty at Mount Holyoke. 

The first and most important recommendation of the CCRG is that a request for proposals (RFP) to vendors for an on-campus child care provision should be issued with broad outreach. The CCRG recommends that the request should seek proposals from a broad variety of child care providers, including, but not limited to, nonprofit organizations, community-based programs, and for-profit providers. 

Based on the work of the CCRG and the related community-needs assessment, the committee recommends that successful proposals will contain the following components:

Key Recommendations to be taken up by RFP Respondents

  • Infant care should be provided;
  • Mount Holyoke faculty, staff, and students should be prioritized for admissions;
  • Flexible hours and schedules (i.e., full day and half-day options, full week and single-day options) should be available;
  • The Center’s schedule should be aligned with the College’s academic calendar;
  • Connections to the academic program at Mount Holyoke should be included and provided for following a review of program priorities by the Department of Psychology and Education;
  • School-age offerings (i.e., summer camp, after-school programs) should be expanded, including options for older children;
  • Strategies to support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work at the Center  (e.g., among staff — including in the hiring process, in service of supporting families and children, within the curriculum) must be outlined and addressed;
  • A plan for clear communication between staff and Gorse families should be included (e.g., a mechanism for daily communication, check-ins, etc.);
  • Willingness to work with early intervention specialists, including allowing them on-site to see children; and
  • Selection of an excellent (visionary) center director.

In addition to the recommendations for the RFP outlined above, the work of the CCRG uncovered several campus community priorities. Our recommendations in relation to these are outlined below.

The committee recommends that Mount Holyoke leadership consider the following:

Recommendations to be taken up by MHC Leadership

  • The College should establish and support a standing child care committee comprised of faculty, staff and students that meets quarterly to review components of the child care program and the College relationship with Gorse, including issues such as financial concerns, DEI initiatives, and curricular changes;
  • Mount Holyoke employees should continue to receive a sliding scale or subsidy, though the current rates should be revisited. A student subsidy should be explored; 
  • The Mount Holyoke subsidy, whatever form it takes, should be clearly and broadly communicated to members of the campus community; and
  • The College should expand on-campus parent/family-friendly services that are not related to the child care center specifically (e.g., nursing and pumping rooms and refrigerated storage capacity, additional changing stations, and dedicated gathering spaces designed for children).

May 26, 2021

The Child Care Survey came to a close today, and in total 756 responses were received:

  • 165 currently employed faculty, plus 4 emerti.
  • 262 staff.
  • 63 students, including 7 FPs and 2 PaGE.
  • 117 non-MHC affiliated with children enrolled at Gorse.
  • 145 non-MHC affiliated, no children enrolled at Gorse/Other.

The survey subgroup is beginning the process of both quantitative and qualitative analyses of all responses.

In addition, the Child Care Review Group has had and will continue to have a variety of meetings with various constituents, including:

  1. Campus partners involved in academic connections between the College and Gorse.
  2. An expert in cooperative business models.
  3. Parents who are students.
  4. Representatives from the local community.

The committee is on track to present their recommendations to the President on June 15.

May 6, 2021

Sonya Stephens reiterated the College's commitment to sustainable on-campus child care using the Gorse facility by making the following statement at both the Faculty Meeting and the Operations Priorities Council (OPC) meeting on May 5:

Continuity of care at the Gorse Center past summer 2022 is one desired outcome of the Child Care Review Group’s work. Mount Holyoke is deeply committed to this resource, the existence of which is closely aligned with our values and mission. The Child Care Review Group is therefore actively seeking not only to preserve but also improve this valuable asset for Mount Holyoke and the surrounding community.

May 5, 2021

The committee’s initial work has included establishing a schedule and working out logistical details, creating and populating a Google Drive with important resources and coming to a shared understanding of its charge. 

Three subgroups have been established and are currently working on: 

  • The development of a community survey to better understand child care needs and the factors that underlie the choices people make when deciding how to meet those needs.
  • The operations, enrollments and costs associated with Gorse and comparative facilities in western Mass and at similar colleges.
  • Researching additional child care resources that might make sense for us — again, looking to comparable colleges to understand the broader landscape.  

The survey will seek feedback from College employees and students as well as local residents. We expect it to go live the week of May 10, 2021, and the link will be available here. We also plan to post additional updates on our work in late May and again in mid June.

(Spring 2021)

The Child Care Review Group is charged with laying the groundwork for establishing long-term and affordable quality child care on Mount Holyoke’s campus. This assessment is considering the current on-campus child care provision offered at The Gorse Children’s Center in partnership with Bright Horizons, as well as other opportunities that might exist for on-campus child care in the future. The committee is currently conducting a deep dive into the data to assess the options for achieving the charge. 

The committee is also identifying and representing the diverse child care needs of Mount Holyoke employees, parenting students, and the wider South Hadley community through broad consultation, including users of the Gorse Children’s Center.

The committee is taking a broad and forward-looking view of support for Mount Holyoke employees who are parents — one aligned both with the College’s mission to advance gender equity and its limited resources. The Committee has been meeting weekly since April 7, 2021.