Monday, May 20, 2013

Proposal Submitted to PUUC Board of Trustees by the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church/Piedmont Progressive Preschool Task Force


Submitted to PUUC Board of Trustees by the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church/Piedmont Progressive Preschool Task Force
April 18, 2013

Task Force members:
 PUUC: Karl Hesse, Heidi Magi, Pam Whistler
 PPP: Susan Burns (PUUC member), Michele Deese (PPP Head Teacher/Administrator)


Purpose of Proposal: to present to the PUUC Board of Trustees the plan that Piedmont Progressive Preschool (PPP) may become a Sponsored Group of the church rather than merging the two entities previously discussed at a May 2012 Board Meeting.  Under the PUUC bylaws, PPP would possibly fit the definition of a Sponsored group (Bylaws Appendix I).   This proposal has been discussed and approved by the governing PPP Parent Council.

Benefits to PUUC of a closer relationship:  The benefits of PPP becoming a Sponsored Group are the church will have no financial obligations to the Preschool and vice-versa, while still experiencing a relationship closer than that of landlord and renter. The hope is that there will be a collaborative relationship based on the similarities in each group’s guiding principles (Appendix II).  For example, the school’s teachers can help to train RE teachers in developmentally appropriate practice as well as effective classroom management techniques.  Parents of children at PPP, seeing a close relationship and shared philosophies between the two, may be more attracted to join PUUC.  Past and current parents will be encouraged to contribute to any of PUUC’s future capital campaigns.  Also PPP has an endowment, a large percentage of which is intended to be donated to a church capital campaign.  Having a preschool helps to give the church a pillar of stability, making it an anchor of the University City community.  It is an additional benefit to families with young children that may join. PPP has an excellent reputation and brings many individuals into the church building, raising PUUC’s profile in the community.  It is unlike any preschool in the area and many families travel from surrounding areas to send their children to PPP. 

New financial/legal ramifications for PUUC:  We are proposing that little will change from the present relationship.  No financials will be merged and PPP’s budget will be totally independent, protecting the church from any financial liability.  PPP will continue to hold a million-dollar liability insurance policy. The church insurance policy also covers liability in the case of a playground or classroom injury.

Policy and Procedure changes: a document will be created for PUUC Board approval which will clearly delineate the relationship between PPP and PUUC. It will spell out what the preschool is responsible for, and what the church will do, particularly with respect to RE classroom setup and storage space and financial arrangements.  A covenant may also be drawn up which will further create a sense of mission between the church and the preschool.

Any other changes anticipated:   PUUC will continue to charge PPP for expenses incurred by the program – supplies, utilities, photocopier costs, and so on. The word “rent” may change to “Fair share rate” or other verbiage. PPP will also continue to keep all shared areas clean and organized, maintain the playground, and alert Buildings and Grounds co-chairs of any urgent issues during the week. The Task Force found in its research that it is very common for different groups sharing space to have conflict occasionally, but with honest and open communication it can be worked out amicably. There will be open communication so that friction can be minimized via cross-representation on the PUUC Board and PPP Council. The PUUC Board may appoint a representative to be present at PPP Council meetings, and a PPP Council or staff member may be selected to attend church Board meetings.

Piedmont Progressive Preschool Background: The non-sectarian preschool was founded in 2001 by Susan Burns, a church member, and Mary Coppola. The original plan was for the school to be an outreach of the church, similar to the Open Door School at UUCC, but a few church members expressed concern about financial and legal liability.  The PPP founders decided the non-profit school would operate independently as a tenant. It has grown to encompass all classrooms in the PUUC church building; it is well-known throughout the area, with an excellent reputation as a developmentally appropriate, play-based preschool with an emphasis on nature and art. There has always been an active Parent Council with many volunteers, and no financial or legal hurdles have had to be overcome.

PPP Improvements: PPP installed Pergo floors in the classrooms, added  many attractive educational materials and furniture that the RE program uses, storage space has been added, the classrooms are kept beautifully maintained, and the playground has been improved and expanded numerous times. PPP parents participate in two workdays per year where they work hard to maintain and improve inside and outside school areas, such as building a garden and creating a composting area. Most recently, all the pressure-treated CCA wood on the play structure was replaced with safer non-treated wood, which was then sealed. All of these contributions have helped PPP staff and parents to have a real sense of connection to PUUC’s interior and exterior space. And of course, there are children who are now in high school that have fond memories of their time at PPP.

History of the Relationship:  There have been bumps along the road, mainly to do with sharing space in the classrooms and kitchen. Some church volunteers felt that the preschool was “taking over” limited church space and interfering with RE classrooms, while PPP staff felt unwelcome and that their efforts to keep the premises clean and organized were ignored.   As PPP grew, its need for space grew and that caused friction; the classrooms needed to be re-arranged weekly from PPP’s setup to RE’s setup and that also contributed to some frustration on both sides. Since then, a concerted effort has been made to have good working relations between PPP and RE as well as the House Committee, and friction has eased a great deal.  In 2011, Rev. Robin Tanner recommended that some kind of relationship parameters be established to make sure that the two organizations complement each other rather than compete.  A Task Force met in 2011-12 but was unsuccessful in crafting a working plan – both sides felt the proposed merger was more than either organization wanted.

Current: A new Task Force began meeting in January 2013 which has made a great deal of progress in forging a path ahead. Two informational sessions have been held after the second service and two Blogs have been posted to inform PUUC members. The PUUC-PPP task force believes that the missions of PUUC and PPP are complementary, and that the mission of both groups would benefit from a continued shared relationship. The Sponsored Group status would formalize the relationship, allowing each to function as independent entities, while solidifying their commitment to one another and clarifying the rights and responsibilities of both entities. Sponsored Group status would allow PUUC and PPP to continue to operate as independent 501 C (3) corporations, thus protecting the legal and financial interests of both communities.

***The Board approved the proposal at their 4/18/13 meeting.  A letter will be sent to the PPP Parent Council requesting  a written application for Sponsorship Group status.

Appendix I:

Article XV: Affiliated and Sponsored Groups

Section 1: Affiliated Groups
Affiliated groups are voluntary organizations which are largely made up of Church Members and friends who support the same values as the Church.

Section 2: Sponsored Groups
Voluntary organizations which are largely made up of non-Church members of the community-at-large who support the same values as the Church, and whose existence and function benefit both the Church and the community may be recognized as sponsored groups.

Section 3: Recognition
The recognition of an affiliated or sponsored group shall be made by the Board of Trustees, upon a written application from such a group stating its purposes and programs, if in the Board's judgment and discretion, the purposes and programs of such group support the purposes and values of the Church.

Section 4: Responsibilities
Each affiliated or sponsored group shall:

a.  Direct its own programs and functions
b.  Be responsible for its own finances, including fund raising and the cost of its activities
c.  Pay for direct expenses incurred on its behalf, and at its request, by the Church.

Section 5: Representation

Each affiliated or sponsored group shall appoint a representative to the Church to provide information and communication on the activities and programs of the group. The Board of Trustees may appoint a liaison to the group for its purpose of information and communication.

Section 6: Termination

Recognition may be rescinded by the Board if in the Board's judgment and discretion, the group does not fulfill its responsibilities and/or the purposes and programs of such group no longer support the purposes and values of the Church.

Apendix II

UU Principles and PPP

The PPP functions according to a philosophy which closely aligns with UU principles, which are displayed in all the PPP’s classrooms. 

Principle 1 The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

Children are taught to behave in ways that reflect respect for each other, their families and their teachers. They learn to use their words to treat everyone as they would wish to be treated.

Principle 2 Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

Classroom management techniques used by teachers encourage justice, equity and compassion through an emphasis on empathy for others while giving everyone a voice.

Principle 3 Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

Children are encouraged to embrace one another’s differences and to ask the big questions, most of which are appropriately answered by their peers rather than adults.

Principle 4 A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

Children are encouraged to ask questions about anything and everything.  Nothing is taboo, but developmentally appropriate language is always used by the teachers.

Principle 5 The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

The democratic process is often used in the classroom to make decisions: for instance, voting on what kind of cooking project to make or the next song to sing.

Principle 6 The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; 

Peace, freedom and justice are lived out small-scale in the classroom every day.  Children learn to resolve conflict peacefully through words, they are free to explore the classroom without limits, and everyone gets a turn.

Principle 7 Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Children spend a majority of their time at PPP outdoors, playing, gardening, walking on the nature trail or picnicking on nice days. This develops a keen sense of love and respect for the environment.

Appendix III

Why is Piedmont Progressive Preschool non-sectarian instead of a Unitarian Universalist preschool?

A Niche that is Unique

Most preschools are either non- profit and religious, or for-profit and non-sectarian. It is very unique to find one that is non-profit and non-religious such as Piedmont Progressive Preschool (PPP).  PPP is the only preschool in the University area, which makes it an attractive option for many parents.   PPP families drive a long way for this type of preschool – some from as far away at Rock Hill and China Grove.

Needed by non-religious people

A new report on global religious identity shows that while Christians and Muslims make up the two largest groups, those with no religious affiliation — including atheists and agnostics — are now the third-largest “religious” group in the world. The study was released Dec. 18, 2012 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.   Parents who do not wish for their children to have unwanted religious instruction have no choice than to put their children in a for-profit preschool or skip it altogether.  For-profit schools have a reputation as corporate and sterile, as well as not offering programs suited to the best interests of the children – for instance, having TVs in every room so the teachers can take a break while children watch.  There is a rigid curriculum where there are few opportunities for children to engage in open-ended creativity indoors, nor for them to spend time outside under trees and on grass.

Celebrating Diversity

A religious preschool is by its very nature non-diverse. People of differing religions tend not to choose one outside their denomination.  One of PPP’s founding principles is to have a diverse population of children and families to enrich the overall experience for everyone.

Religion having a better place at home and church

Parents have more control over their children’s religious instruction when it comes from them or from their trusted religious childcare providers and clergy. 

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