PUSH cuts staff, asks for help

By ANDREW TANGEL State Journal Staff Writer Published:

The new chairman of the board thinks the PUSH Early Childhood Development Center has chosen the right, though painful, budget cuts to save the day care from its financial plight.

The Frankfort day care serving handicapped children sounded the alarm earlier this month that its chronic overspending had dug a monetary hole so deep it might close unless it reduced services.

PUSH has slashed its staff by more than one-third. It is asking parents to volunteer to keep the teacher-student ratio from ballooning far beyond the level it enjoyed before creditors nudged the center to stop spending approximately $20,000 more than it took in monthly.

"There didn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel," said Tom Midkiff, the center's newly appointed board chairman. Midkiff thinks the center could erase its debt by February 2004. "We found the light, hopefully."

PUSH is a quarter million dollars in the red because the center had for years avoided making "some of the harder decisions" and factored into its budget contributions that hadn't yet materialized, Midkiff said.

Midkiff took the PUSH reigns after Rochelle Silvernail resigned last week for personal reasons and over frustrations with PUSH's financial crisis, Midkiff and board member Russ McClure said. Silvernail could not be reached for comment.

PUSH's reorganization reduced its staff to19 full-time employees from 30. Some reassignments didn't sit well with three teachers who've decided to leave. The center is searching for replacements.

Also, the center is looking for four or five parents to volunteer for one to six hours a week so the day care can maintain a low teacher-student ratio, though PUSH's financial plight voids the extraordinarily low 1-2 ratio it once enjoyed.

"The ratios were so good before," Midkiff said. "To maintain the types of amazing ratios we've had down here, we're going to have to have parent volunteers."

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