Right At School, a national for-profit company based in Evanston, Ill. that provides before and after-school care for students in the Princeton Public Schools, intends to terminate its contract with the school district on Thursday afternoon, just a day after parents held a meeting with the company and district officials that made headlines.
Officials are seeking another organization to take over the district’s before and after-school programs, Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley told parents in an email Friday morning.
Parents signed a petition last week detailing problems with the new company, including staff shortages, poor treatment by employees when interacting with children and families, security issues, and other problems.
This week parents wrote a follow-up letter to district officials after one employee of Right At School told two girls to behave or he would “have to go back to prison.” It turned out the employee had a criminal record and the criminal background check had not come back yet. After-school care providers have two weeks to treat an employee as provisional until the background check comes back.
In a meeting with parents Wednesday night, representatives from the company said Right At School was implementing new screening procedures and vowed to do better. But it was clear that many parents had already lost so much trust in the company that they no longer felt comfortable sending their children to the program. Parents questioned why a stricter screening process was already in place given other publicized incidents related to Right At School in other districts. Several parents asked district officials to end the district’s relationship with the company.
Many parents expressed a desire to have a community organization provide before and after-care programming instead of a for-profit company. Last year, the Princeton YMCA ran the program. Some years the Princeton YWCA has run the after-care program. The YMCA, which has merged with the Greater Somerset County YMCA, did not submit an application on time for this year. Four organizations submitted applications.
A committee comprised of the superintendent, the district business administrator, and the four principals at the district’s elementary schools reviewed the applications, ranked them, and gave the YWCA a lower score than Right At School after reviewing materials submitted by all for programs. Right At School marketing materials claim the program offers more than 180 “disguised learning activities” and a self-directed learning program. Parents said the programs did not materialize. The company said such programs normally don’t start until the second month of the school year.
“On Thursday afternoon, Right At School informed us of their intention to terminate their contract with Princeton Public Schools,” Kelley wrote in a letter to parents Friday. “This news comes after several days of dialogue between concerned parents, district officials and Right At School employees. We will make every effort to continue before and after care school services without disruption as we work to identify a new provider.”
Kelley said that effective immediately, each site will be staffed by Right At School employees and a Princeton Public Schools staff member to ensure that students receive the best possible care. A transition plan is being developed by the administrative team which will include parent participation on a selection committee to choose a new provider, Kelley wrote, adding that a timeline and selection process will be forthcoming.
“We are appreciative to all of the elementary school parents who came forward to share their concerns with district officials,” Kelley wrote. “I am confident that through continued dialogue with parents, we will be able to select a new provider before and after school care services provider that meets the needs of our students and their families.”
Editor’s note: An earlier edition of this story said Right At School has terminated its contract with the Princeton Public Schools. The company “intends” to terminate the contract with the district, according to the superintendent’s statement.