Penn State will retain control of Bennett Family Center

mdawson@centredaily.comMarch 26, 2014 

For the next two years, Penn State will continue to run the on-campus Bennett Family Center and not outsource its management to a private company after uproar from parents, university President Rodney Erickson has decided.

Penn State will staff the Bennett child care center, which serves children from 6 weeks to 6 years old, through June 30, 2016. University leaders will use the time between now and then to further study child care and early education services on all Penn State campuses, the president said in a recent letter announcing his directions after a task force studied child care services systemwide.

One change Erickson made is the oversight of the Bennett center, from the College of Health and Human Development to the central human resources office.

Parents whose children attend the Bennett center and the Hort Woods center protested the university’s proposal last year to outsource the management of the two centers to Hildebrandt Learning Centers. The university already had a contract in place with Hildebrandt through June 2016 for the Hort Woods center, and it was looking to sign another to cover the Bennett center and a few university employees who remain at Hort Woods.

The parents feared the staff at the centers who were university employees would not continue on as Hildebrandt employees because they would not have Penn State benefits, such as the tuition discount.

Erickson appointed a task force to study the management question as well as a number of other child care issues on campus. The members, led by Associate Vice President Jacqueline Edmondson, recommended that the short-term management of the Bennett center needed to be resolved as soon as possible.

The president’s decision means that the Bennett center staffers will keep their university employment and benefits. Erickson said the university and the company will discuss compensation that will attract and retain high-quality early childhood teachers for the centers.

“A number of the recommendations will require ongoing conversations to find the right management and oversight structure, policies and an effective advisory structure — which will all translate into high-quality child care for our faculty, staff and students,” Erickson said.

Edmondson said she was pleased with the administration’s decision.

“I am quite appreciative of the administration’s commitment to high-quality early childhood education and care, and I am also quite appreciative of the task force members who worked so hard to address the questions in our charge and meet our deadline,” Edmondson said.

Erickson said the officials at the university will collect child care information, such as cost, hours and assistance for lower-income families, with other universities and colleges. Another of Erickson’s recommendations is to re-establish a child care operations director in the human resources office.

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