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Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant to Find Money for Woodstock Child Development Center Programs

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m., a joint Alameda City Council and Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees meeting is set to take place at AUSD’s district offices. In addition to a proposal to convert redevelopment property tax dollars to operational funds for Alameda Schools, Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant is expected to present ideas on how the City of Alameda might help find funding for the Woodstock Child Development Center programs which are at risk of being discontinued due to State budget cuts.

Caroline Topeé, an Alameda parent who is leading the efforts to find alternative before and after school care programs for toddler and school-age children in the AUSD public school system, issued a statement to the media yesterday, wherein she explained that Ms. Gallant, at a Tuesday, September 21st joint City Council and AUSD subcommittee meeting, told participants that she had ideas on how the City might help find funds, and that she would present more details at the meeting this Saturday.

By e-mail, Gallant told Action Alameda News, “That given the nature of the two programs, specifically the eligibility criteria and demographics, the easiest route for any City assistance would be through CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] funds, as those were designed to assist certain programs in eligible census districts. The District is giving us data now on eligibility requirements. Any ideas I have on CDBG, I will share on Saturday in an oral report, as I am crunching numbers as we speak.” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as “HUD,” runs the Community Development Block Grant program, and the agency’s website says that the program is among the longest running at HUD.

Previously, Ms. Topeé had told Action Alameda News that it is primarily parents with children in schools in the lower income neighborhoods of Alameda west of Park Street that would be impacted by the loss of the Woodstock child care programs; schools in the City’s East-end and wealthy Gold Coast neighborhood are served by Girls Inc.’s Alameda Island Kids program.

The Woodstock programs are set to be shut down on October 8th, when $100,000 of AUSD General Fund money, approved, in lieu of State funds, for expenditure on the programs by the Board of Trustees runs out. (Trustee McMahon voted against the expenditure.)

Action Alameda News contacted AUSD Trustee Trish Spencer, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, by telephone to ask about the prospect of the City of Alameda to find funding for the WCDC programs, and the potential transfer of redevelopment funds to the District. Ms. Spencer said, “I’m very pleased that this joint effort by the City and School District to redirect these monies for the benefit of our public schools appears to be coming to fruition. As we all know, these monies are sorely needed by our schools. I want to thank not only Mayor Johnson and City Council for making this a priority, but also Gretchen Lipow and Action Alameda News who have optimistically and tirelessly pursued this effort for years. I remember years ago when Gretchen delivered a huge packet of materials to me that she had accumulated. Fortunately now with the expertise and enthusiasm of the Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant it appears likely that we will successfully navigate this additional source of funding for our schools.”

In 2008, Action Alameda News broke the story that the City of Alameda was holding funds for an Alameda Unified School District low-income housing fund.

Caroline Topeé and Jovanna Topeé

According to Topeé, she was only member of the public to address the subcommittee on Tuesday, and she told the group, “We as parents who work hours that start at 8:00 a.m. need a program to watch over our children before school starts. I have tried to find another solution, but it does not exist in the morning. I may have a job interview this week and if I get the job it starts at 8:00 a.m. I want to stay working and living in Alameda. This program would be best for me and for the other parents who have this type of work schedule. Since the summer, myself and other parents had to find an After-School care program to keep our children together so not to disrupt their lives. But I am paying two child care facilities to have the coverage and I am unemployed probably due to this child care dilemma we had to deal with. My daughter had to get used to the WCDC in her first year at Haight Elementary, which finally she did. But now, she has to adjust all over again to a new teacher and new child care situation which is hard for me, too. She needs stability and I hope that all of you can find the solution that I and the parents need in order to keep our jobs.”

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