The Child Care Business Podcast

Episode 4: Running a District-wide After School & Early Ed Program | Renee Elting

April 15, 2021 Procare Solutions Season 1 Episode 4
The Child Care Business Podcast
Episode 4: Running a District-wide After School & Early Ed Program | Renee Elting
Show Notes Transcript
During this episode, we talk all things after school and early childhood with Renee Elting, Community Education Account Specialist for the Oregon City School District. Renee has been with the school district for over 23 years, which means she has seen it all. You’ll hear about the genesis of Oregon City’s community education program, how Renee and her team have adapted and modernized the program to meet the needs of the families they serve, and the ways they’ve navigated some of their biggest challenges. 

About Renee:
Renee is the Community Education Account Specialist for the Oregon City School District. She has taken on many assignments with the school district over the last 23 years, her favorite being in the classroom with students.

Currently, she leads the Childcare/Early Education office team in state compliance protocols, financial solutions, parent communications, software management, and internal and external tech support. 

In her free time, Renee loves to tromp around in the woodland and is a maker through and through. She and her husband, Tom, along with their fluffy bunny, live in Beavercreek, Oregon.

Additional Resources:
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Contact Us:
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Speaker 1 (00:08):

[inaudible] welcome to the childcare business podcast brought to you by ProCare solutions. This podcast is all about giving childcare, preschool, daycare, afterschool, and other early education professionals, a fun and upbeat way to learn about strategies and inspiration you can use to thrive. You'll hear from a variety of childcare thought leaders, including educators, owners, and industry experts on ways to innovate, to meet the needs of the children you serve from practical tips for managing operations, to uplifting stories of transformation and triumph. This podcast will be chalk full and insights you can use to fully realize the potential of your childcare business. Let's jump in

Speaker 2 (00:53):

Morning, everyone. Welcome to the childcare business podcast. Once again, this is Ryan Gwaltney and really excited to have you join us today. Uh, and today we're going to talk about after school and who better to talk to us about that than our friend Renee Elting, uh, really quick bio on Renee. She is the community education account specialist for the Oregon city school district. She has taken on many assignments with the school district over the last 23 years. Uh, her favorite being in the classroom with students, uh, currently Renee leads, the childcare early education office team and state compliance protocols, financial solutions, parent communications, software management, and internal and external tech support. A little bit of Jack of all trades, uh, and in her free time, uh, Rene loves to tromp around in the Woodland and she is a maker through and through she and her husband, Tom, along with their fluffy bunny live in Beaver Creek, Oregon, Renee. Good morning. How are you? Good

Speaker 3 (01:53):

Morning. How are you? I,

Speaker 2 (01:56):

Well, I'll tell you what we were just talking before we started recording live. I'm fantastic. It's it's a Friday morning, so we're, we're here. Let's see Friday the 19th of March. And so for you and I it's Friday, that makes it a good day, but it's also as an educator in Oregon. It's a good day because if I'm not mistaken next week spring break. So this is like for you the start of a little bit of a break. Yes.

Speaker 3 (02:21):

Uh, it is the start of spring break. Um, however, it is not a break for, um, school out of school programming. So this is really when we ramp up and, um, show our stuff. Um, we've got a whole week of jam packed activities and, um, fun things for the kids to do. Um, during this last year, you know, we've been doing comprehensive distance learning, so, um, that's, uh, you know, been a little bit of a, a curve ball, but you know, our staff is great about, um, getting what needs to be done, done, and then having fun. And so, um, that's kind of our, our role at this point is, um, academic support. And then, um, what do we do to occupy kids and keep them in that, um, social, emotional realm of afterschool, what we usually do. So it's a, it's going to be a great week next week. I'm excited.

Speaker 4 (03:21):

Yeah. So I didn't realize that. So while everybody else gets to look forward to a week off, all the teachers, administrators in the district and then families who are able to get to hit the pause button, you guys, uh, get to kind of stand in the gap, so to speak and help the families that aren't able to do that. So does that mean next week? Will you have a higher volume of students than you typically do in a normal week? Or is it the same number of kids? Just a different cadence that you have with them?

Speaker 3 (03:49):

Pre COVID? I would say we usually have, um, you know, more at one center, but, um, now that we don't have, uh, after school or, um, any type of childcare services or camps at any of the elementary schools, cause still they're close to the public. We'll talk a little bit about that later, but, um, we have one center that's open, so all of the kids from all of the elementary schools converge on one building. Um, and so yeah, stand in the gap is probably a good, a good term. Um, but, uh, it's just more fun than, than just the childcare service. It really is more like camp. We rotate through, we do different activities. Um, we, we have had some special programming, like, um, ceramic. I was able to do ceramic snowflakes with the kids, um, via zoom. Um, so their room leaders, you know, got kits for each kid and, um, I recorded a zoom, um, meeting if you will, um, with the demonstrations.

Speaker 3 (04:58):

And I got really good at learning how to use a remote camera and, um, setting up on a tripod for my little workstation. And so even though, you know, COVID has kind of squinched somethings, it really has pushed us to explore other opportunities that now seem pretty normal, like zoom meetings and doing things remotely and having the opportunity to, um, for some families to work from home, which, you know, we, we didn't have prior. So looking on the bright side, you know, we have all of those new things that skills in our pocket and tools in our tool belt that we didn't have before. So that's pretty awesome

Speaker 4 (05:39):

Is a good way to look at how did, uh, out of curiosity, how did the, uh, ceramic Classico? So in retrospect you had the plan, you had the snowflake, you conducted the class, how many students and how did that go? I asked that question because good friend of mine, we were just talking before, went on air Southern Oregon as a high

Speaker 2 (05:58):

School ceramics teacher. And I know coming into this year, it was like, I don't know how I'm going to teach ceramics via zoom, although he's, he's made it happen. How did it pan out for you?

Speaker 3 (06:08):

Um, I think it really went great. Uh, we had, you know, the setup and the communication was key because you're not there physically. So whoever's in the room helping those K to five kids. And then we also had, um, our three-year-old and four-year-old classroom do the same project, just in a little different scale. Um, you know, having that communication about what those room helpers, um, uh, that were part of the cohort, um, do and what they could do to support the kids, um, was key. Most of them don't have any ceramic skills either. So, um, you know, just rolling out the clay, what does that look like? Where are the pitfalls? What, you know, what do I as experience, know what the kids are going to need? Um, and what I've seen, you know, um, uh, in the classroom over, you know, 20 years of like doing afterschool programming.

Speaker 3 (07:04):

So, um, it went well. We had, um, I think I had 120 snowflakes in the Kim. Yeah. And, um, the, uh, to make it very easy, I just did the first firing that's the bisque firing. So we didn't do any glazing. The kids got to paint them with acrylic paints after that takes it down to a whole different level, um, than what high school ceramics would be as you would need glaze. And then there's, you know, stilting and wax and, you know, loading the kiln and all of that. So kill management and we have a really old Kilmer, so I have to be there for like 13 hours to run that killing cause it's not programmable. So, um, I just took a really long day and, um, and got it done. But the look on the kid's face when I was rolling the cart through with all of my PPE and dropping the, the, um, the totes off was pretty cool. They were so, so excited. And, um, for me that's the most rewarding thing is like to just see kids so excited about something that you hadn't had a part of. So,

Speaker 2 (08:16):

Yeah. And especially in this past year, you know, anything that as an educator that you can do to bring that out of kids, I'm sure it is something that makes a big impact on everyone. It talk about speaking about being in the classroom for you. I was reading a little bit about your bio. Uh, you've been with the Oregon city school district for 23 years. Is that right? Go so rewind for me, I've been, let's see, this year will be my 23rd wedding anniversary. So I'm guessing it was around 1998 then for you, when you started working there, what, what do you remember about the interview, your very first interview with Oregon city school district on that day? What do you remember about it?

Speaker 3 (08:59):

I remember pretty much everything about it, um, because my kids were also in that same school. Um, and so, uh, so that was a little bit of a different dynamic as well. Um, I got interviewed by, uh, who is now our superintendent and being in the same building for that 23 years as my base building that I've, um, that I've worked out of, um, you know, every day there's floods of memories that come back and, you know, um, so the, the interview I remember was in, uh, it's a very small narrow office with a light, uh, like a skylight behind it. And, um, I remember walking in and the, and the sun was just shining on this, on the, my, my interviewer's head kind of like a halo, like a, like a tunnel. And I thought, okay, well, there's, that's a act to follow right there. But, um, anyway, he's a, he's a super nice, um, man, very approachable, very, um, compassionate about families and kids. And, um, I just really think the world of him and I still do. And, um, to know that he is our superintendent and leader, um, for our school district is really comforting to me because I know what kind of person he is. And it had, he hasn't changed after all of these new assignments that both of us have had. He hasn't changed one bit.

Speaker 2 (10:29):

Yeah. That's a, that's amazing. Do you remember, I'm sure you do what, what the first position that you interviewed for was so, so maybe a follow-up to that question is what were you doing prior to that? So before interviewing for that first job, and then what was that first job? Because I want to talk a little bit about your career path through the district too.

Speaker 3 (10:49):

The, um, my first, uh, job prior to this one was through Tahoma school district. That's up in maple Valley, Washington, Washington, and, um, a friend of mine, um, did a community education. She's a really good, uh, culinary person. She doesn't consider herself a chef or a Baker, but she knows everything about everything, every cookbook, every, uh, chef, every like French, um, technique. And she's, um, she's a super great gal and she was doing some community ed classes. And at that time, um, I was a soap maker actually. And she said, you should teach so baking. And I thought, okay, well, you know, I'll think about it. And, um, and so that's kinda how my community ed path started. And then, um, and then my family, uh, we, my husband's in construction. We wanted to move back closer to our family because, um, our jobs had taken us away. And, um, so we moved back home to Oregon city Beaver Creek area. And, um, and I, and my kids were part of a homeschool, uh, magnet program. And so that's what I was doing before I decided, okay, I'm going to jump in here and seeing, you know, what I can do in the community L Brown. So that was, um, that was how it started homeschooling mom wanting to do some other classes. Um, and that's kinda how it started the office start the office part of it was a little bit later, but

Speaker 4 (12:26):

Okay. That's how it started. So it was the original interview was for a role within community ed teaching specific classes to kids in this department. Yeah. So I have to double click on, cause I know nothing about soap making. So I just got to ask about that. How does one make soap? What goes into soap when you're making it

Speaker 3 (12:47):

Safety first? That's the very first thing because we use, um, uh, we use lie and, um, that's something to, to respect and be careful of. So I have a kids version that's a little bit different while it's a lot different, it's a whole different kind of thing. And then I also do community ed, um, for, uh, for adults. So that kind of thing would be more geared towards adults. So, um, uh, lie and water at a certain temperature will support defy with oil and, um, and with the right temperature and the right, um, mechanical mixing, what you will be, we'll get soap eventually

Speaker 4 (13:29):

You will get soap. So it sounds like you still do that a little bit. You teach classes. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Nice. And then, so when you took that first job and you started working at the district, talk to me about like over the years, the different things that you've done, because if I read correctly, there has been a little bit of change for you over the years, doing different things. What does that look like?

Speaker 3 (13:51):

The, uh, well it kinda more, it, it was, it was because I was standing around in the office. That was basically how it was. Um, and, uh, I was making copies in the office for our, um, a class of mine. It was called pony pals, um, where I teach kids about horses and, um, uh, handling a horse. And it just kind of was a good outlet for kids who really wanted a horse, but maybe they're ready to get one. Um, but it gave them some basic things. And we talked about breeds and, you know, body parts and horse anatomy and all of that kind of stuff. And so I was making copies for that class and the phone, I don't know where the office ladies were. Maybe they were in the ladies room. Maybe they were attending to a sick child. I, I don't know, but, um, the phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing and I just had to pick it up.

Speaker 3 (14:49):

And so, um, I, it, up, I took a message. I put it on the secretary's desk. There was one for the director. I put it on his desk. And then, um, uh, the next day they asked me to come to the office and said that they needed to fill in for the secretary who was going on vacation. So, um, so that's, that's how, that's how that one went. And, um, uh, and when opportunity knocks, I am not one to turn it down. So I worked six days a month. So three days at the end of the month and three days at the beginning of the month after I did the fill in for the secretary who was on vacation. Um, and that was kind of part of my, um, insight as to what afterschool programming was that three days at the end and three days at the M at the beginning of the month were the heaviest days for office work. Um, back when we did everything by paper, um, we had, we had literally thousands of pieces of paper to document where kids, when kids were signed up when they were there, um, like literally thousands. We had a book for every school's who two binders for every school in each binder was six inches wide. So like the big honkin ones and every kid had their own tab. And that's the way we took track of things. So processing that was the three days before

Speaker 2 (16:24):

Was a lot of work. Yeah. And just to confirm, like those three days were heavy because as you talk about before and after-school programs at that time, that was the process where families were giving you the schedule for the upcoming month and letting you know, what days they needed. And then you were figuring out billing for the month that ended, and that was starting, all that type of stuff. Is that right?

Speaker 3 (16:44):

That is correct. And, um, we would mail out a NCR paper, um, with the calendar on it, and then it would have a place to calculate, you know, the days and the totals and whatever. And then, um, parents would either, uh, give us a credit card on file and we didn't swipe it. We punched all the numbers in and, you know, took this Nova thing. And then, um, and then, or they would give us a check. So the processing of things were, were really, um, what was, was very labor intensive. Let's put it that way. Um, what we learned just to put it out there, because I think this was really important. Um, what we learned is billing after can be problematic in that. Um, it's because then you become a bill collector. And so, um, I know that that a lot of folks are going to be listening to this. And if I had one piece of a business advice, when it came to that is get the money out front, um, then you're not chasing that later. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (17:53):

You, uh, you kind of hit on, uh, on a pain point for a lot of districts, at least from my experience talking with afterschool providers, especially I think school districts, public school systems that offer the service, the focus is so much, we're here to be a service to the community and we want to be flexible and we want to provide a place that works with their schedules. And so sometimes that ends up translating into, we give parents ultimate control and flexibility on what they sign up for and how they pay. And then it turns into we're chasing this every single month. And, and then when you hear providers learn that lesson and realize like, look in order for us to be effective at being here for our community. We can't be chasing money and chasing payments and paper every month. And so you get proactive on that. It sounds like when did you guys make that shift? Was that early on moving from billing after the fact to pre billing, or did it take you a while to get there?

Speaker 3 (18:49):

It was, um, it was right. I was, I joined the office team right on the cusp of that, um, that now pre-building, um, the, our head secretary at that time was hired to work from four to eight in the evening, um, as the bill collector for that, um, so four to eight in the evening. So she was part-time at, at our location and then part-time at, uh, an another school. And when we calculated that out for what we needed to pay her, to collect those bills, we were just, you know, basically taken it in the short. So if I can be so bold to say that, um, and, uh, even though we are not for-profit, we are part of the school district. We have to be self-sustaining, we have to be, we can't cost the district money. Um, our goal is not to make the district money either it's to provide a service that's affordable and be sustainable. And so, um, so we went from, uh, billing after to pre-building and then, um, when we started, uh, working with daycare works, um, there was, at that time, no, uh, shopping cart experience, there was no pre, um, pre, um, pre-pay. Um, but, uh, the developers, um, really worked with us in getting that shopping cart experience happening. And, um, within probably about six months of working with them, we were able to pull it off and it has been seamless, um, you know, besides the little hiccups here and there

Speaker 4 (20:33):

And it, and it does ultimately allow you to provide better outcomes too. Cause then all of your human resource, all of your people are focused on actually providing outcomes for the kids and great programming and not, you know, expending energy and time on, on chasing money at, at its

Speaker 2 (20:48):

Apex. And I know that it, you know, maybe with COVID things have changed a little bit over the last year, but in terms of when you guys were at the largest or the most operating capacity, how many different locations in the district do you provide your programs at? And then can you just talk to me about what programming you offer? Like what ages you start at and then what it goes through?

Speaker 3 (21:09):

Um, w we have done [inaudible] for a long time at, at the time that I started, we had, um, nine, 10, um, elementary schools, uh, since then four of them have closed over the last 20, 20 years or so. Um, uh, so that, that has, um, that has significantly changed the way that we, um, do things regarding busing and getting kids and getting to and from, and, um, that kind of thing. We, um, uh, currently we have six schools pre COVID and we have about, Oh, about 600 kids in the program, total, not 600 per day, but 600 total then, um, our early education department morphed out of a co-op experience. So we used to have a co-op for three-year-olds two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday. And then we had a co-op for four-year-olds pre-K on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And, um, we ran that through community ed for a really long time.

Speaker 3 (22:17):

And then we started hearing parents saying, I really need care for my little person. Um, and I work full-time, so I can't do the co-op experience. Um, so we, so we opened our early ed department, I think, in about 2011, 2010, something like that. Um, and it also, um, encompassed our young parent program, which is for parents who are still in high school, who have children. And so we were able to team up with the school district regarding what that looks like logistically and funding stream and how that, how that all ties into it. But that was a really big part of our push was to provide that support to our high school students who were moms and dads. Um, and so that's kind of where our early ed, um, experience started. And we have about 100 kids in that, um, in that program all housed in one building except for one satellite program. Um, we'll pre-K and it's just a morning only. Um, pre-K so it's not a full daycare, it's just strictly pre pre-kindergarten.

Speaker 2 (23:36):

Yeah. So how does that, I'm curious, how does that process work when you have a community offering and then your families come to in the community and say, Hey, we love what you guys are doing, but it doesn't fill our exact needs. So for example, the, the co-op environment wasn't enough in terms of many days, there's many hours as some families need, which I think this is a great illustration of how districts work with their community because you identified a need, but then what did you guys have to do within the district to go get approval to open that program? Is that through the board of ed? Is it just your local school? How did that process work?

Speaker 3 (24:11):

There's many facets to making that a reality. And, um, you're right. The first thing is to identify the need and to see if the need would support something that you could put together. Um, and so, uh, the next step would be talking to, um, the operations manager, um, and say, you know, we think we have a need here. We'd like to explore it. What do you think? Um, they get on board and then it goes to, um, you know, the other leadership of our, of our district, um, including the superintendent and other key people. Um, and then through community ed, we have a lot of flexibility to offer things that, um, in a traditional school programming, um, you know, K five, um, secondary, and you don't have that flexibility. And so, um, uh, so that makes it really easy to slot things into community ed, because you throw it out there and you say, is it going to stick?

Speaker 3 (25:15):

Well, we're going to try it. And then it went, it sticks, it sticks. And then you roll with it and it becomes a snowball and bigger and bigger and bigger. So, um, but if it doesn't you say, okay, it didn't work this time. We're going to put that in our, in our history, we're going to put that kind of in a binder. So we know what we did before for subsequent people that may enter that role. And then, um, maybe we'll hit it again sometime. So a good example of that is the, before the bell school program that we heard from parents, we really need before school, we really need to drop off at seven. Um, we know school doesn't start till eight, 15. We really, really need this. So we, we got approval. We put it together, which involved a little bit more because it was at the actual elementary schools. So we needed to make sure that building principals now were on board and, um, secretaries, you know, who needs a key card to get in. Who's gonna turn on the lights, is the heat on, you know, all of those logistical things. And then out of, you know, like I'm going to say 75 people who in a, just a jot down survey, you know, at the checkout window, would you be interested in that? Oh yeah. Yeah, for sure. So out of 75 people, we had two people sign up and have, so,

Speaker 2 (26:35):

So maybe the demand wasn't quite as big as

Speaker 3 (26:38):

Getting up. Good. So parents may have thought that I need to, I need to drop my kids off at seven. Um, uh, maybe wasn't quite as realistic as they originally thought

Speaker 4 (26:52):

In theory, because that means they had to get up that early and they had to bring their kids. So when the rubber met the road, it wasn't as big of a deal as they thought. W do you guys, was, is that a lengthy process? Just like in a public school system? Because I know as a private business owner, oftentimes if, Hey, if I identify a need, I do some quick research. I get to make that decision to immediately begin offering that program. And I know sometimes in government entities or in public institutions, that process can be a little bit longer. Have you found that to be the case, or like in the example of the full day childcare, was that something you guys were able to pivot to really quick?

Speaker 3 (27:29):

I would say it took us probably probably about, um, I'm trying to think. We, we started talking about it in the fall of one year and we started implementing it the fall of the next year, and I think we could have launched it sooner, but it was, it would have been summer. And that's typically not a great time to launch something that's built for longevity, like a whole program year. And so, um, but you're right as a small business owner, um, I know I can throw something out there. You know, I put it on Facebook or I offer a wreath making class or whatever too, and I just throw it out there, come to the ranch and we'll make a brief. And, you know, you see what you get, you could do that on a whim, but you're right. When you're working within a, um, you know, a public entity and you need to ask for permission for space and, you know, who's going to let somebody in the building and who's going to publish it and how are we going to get it published and how are we going to offer it?

Speaker 3 (28:34):

Community ed is pretty self, self contained with all of those things, but it, when it comes to build using a building, that's when, um, you know, a building that's not are in our community at building. That's when the, a lot of the permissions and the, in the tape go regarding the legal aspects of things. Um, there are inspections, there are trainings, there are all kinds of things. When we talk about childcare and now with COVID, we have additional trainings, um, in our state. We also, even if you are a employee of the school district and have been fingerprinted through, um, the Oregon department of education's kind of track, we still, as childcare providers have to have a second set of fingerprints, which go to a different area of the government. So the early learning division, um, is where the childcare fingerprinting background check go, um, which I have no problem with, you know, I mean, we're dealing with little kids and I think frankly, we should be fingerprinted every, but that's just me. And, um, I'm the, I'm the I'm that mom, you know, I'm that

Speaker 4 (29:48):

Moms be overly cautious about

Speaker 3 (29:51):

What I have nothing to hide. And so, and I want parents to feel that way about me as well. Um, anyway, so, um, then when you begin to take a state assistance, um, that ramps up the game, uh, even more, there's some additional, uh, additional protocols then, um, processes definitely for, uh, state billing for state subsidies and other types of, um, programming, County, tribal, all that, you know, there's a realm of that

Speaker 4 (30:23):

You have to get through. Yeah. So it just takes time. And that brings up a good point, too. Like through that process, you, you were talking about the requirements that you have to go through on staff that you hire. And I know over the years, I hear a lot from schools about the challenges of staffing these programs, because you're in elementary schools, you obviously have to make sure all of these people check the right boxes. It's not an extremely high paying position. So you've got to get people that are really passionate about what you're asking them to do. How do you guys staff your programs out of curiosity at the schools? Are you hiring staff like from the elementary schools that stay later to help with the extended care program? Is it outside staff that you bring in? Can you talk just about a little bit about how you guys staff things?

Speaker 3 (31:11):

Yeah, we, we use all and every Avenue that we can. So, uh, for instance, your first question was, do you, uh, do you use building staff? We do have a couple of IAS instructional assistants who work, uh, five to six hours a day and they fill in and get that full-time, um, a day in the after-school programming. So there's a, you know, a union and a, you know, a memo of understanding that has to happen and all of that. But I think that over the years that's been dialed in and that's not a problem, um, whatsoever. We also have, um, uh, you know, um, college kids that are on an education or early education track for, um, you know, for, for their, uh, their career path. So that's really exciting to get someone who's excited about being there, um, and come to the table with ideas and I've always wanted to do this, and I'd like to try that, and that's really encouraging for us to hear.

Speaker 3 (32:19):

Um, and then we have, you know, solid people who show up to work every day. They're great with the kids. Maybe they're retired, maybe they are, um, you know, between jobs. We have lots of different scenarios of really, really great, great people. So, um, if they're jazzed about being with kids, we're jazz to have them, that's kind of where, what it boils down to. We can help support and, you know, and, um, mentor what that looks like for after-school programming. But if you want to be, you know, if you, if you have a passion to, um, to work with kids, we'd like to work with you. So

Speaker 2 (32:59):

That's a good way to look at it. And has that been always part of your role as well in, you know, the early education, the community education is the staffing component. Are you involved with all the hiring, the interviewing, or do you have like team leads that handle that

Speaker 3 (33:14):

We, uh, in the past I've been part of that, um, that team right now, my main goal is, um, is to onboard, uh, our new staff in their trainings and their state compliance and background checks and all that. So helping them walk through the process, we also, um, ask a lot of our staff regarding, um, the way we use the daycare work school CareWorks platform, um, at the site, they are the one that pull the daily sign-in sign-out sheets. They are the ones that check kids in, um, online, uh, pull child directories, take care of all of that kind of management now, um, post COVID and everybody's in one spot, we have pretty much removed that kind of admin stuff, because we can handle that at our central checkout. So that has changed a little bit, but helping them try to figure out, um, how do you school care works, which is very intuitive once you get used to it.

Speaker 3 (34:17):

Um, I, um, you know, that's kinda more where my realm is, um, is the compliance and training, um, and setting up the, you know, the software and whatever I do interface with the staff a lot. Um, if they have tech questions or they, um, you know, for some reason they forgot their pin or their password or whatever, so tech support, or if they're having trouble with their computer email or whatever, um, you know, that's kind of where my interaction with the staff are. I may be asked, um, like if we had had a staff member, um, previous staff member who wants to come back, I may be asked, what do I know about this person? Just because of my longevity in, uh, in the program.

Speaker 2 (35:04):

Yeah. Just go ask Renee. She'll know she's been here. I do

Speaker 3 (35:07):

Not forget.

Speaker 2 (35:09):

Did you know when you started at the district that you would be the tech support, uh, guru expert help desk, or that just kind of became, cause you helped roll out software, go ask Renee. She knows the answer.

Speaker 3 (35:23):

Um, I would say, I would say I, if I don't know the answer to something, I will figure it out. If that means I have to go home and Google, whatever, then I will, because I'm very curious by nature and I feel like I'm a lifelong learner. So if it's something that I'm interested in, he, I really think that I should know how to do that. That was a good question. I'm going to figure that out. That's the, that's kind of probably more like, um, if you would have asked me, um, you know, 23 years ago, would S would software management be part of my, um, my realm, I would say, um, what is software? I mean, I know it's software. It was like something that you put in a, in a, on a floppy disc, you know, or, and you stuck it in the little thing and, you know, then it did and all that. So, um, who knew who did it?

Speaker 2 (36:19):

We knew that it would, well, it illustrates how I think for everybody, you know, you don't get to really write the story of how your career plays out. You know, you step through one door and you just start doing, and then things open up and you take on responsibility. You find what you're curious and passionate about. And next thing, you know, start things start to unfold. What are you guys just switching gear a little bit in terms of looking forward? I know this is a time of year that districts oftentimes start talking about summer programs and the upcoming school year. And I, I know for the most part, there's still a little level of uncertainty about what next year looks like. How are you guys communicating with your families right now about what to expect in the coming year, or maybe even what answers you still don't have? What does that look like currently for Oregon city school district?

Speaker 3 (37:09):

We right now are just getting over the hump of launching what we're doing during hybrid, because our kids will go to in-person learning the Monday after spring break. So the 29th, um, we have, uh, we ha we are re cohorting everyone by school for a couple of reasons. Um, one is, uh, if for some reason, a school shuts down and cannot, uh, for COVID reasons. Let's just say, there's a, let's just say there's a concentrated outbreak. And that school has to shut down. We only lose one cohort, um, of childcare. And so if we keep, if we're good about keeping those cohorts separate, that doesn't shut down our whole building. And so that was one of our main goals where when we don't, when kids start mixing with other kids, we wanted to limit our risk and exposure. So we, so that's the route that we're moving towards.

Speaker 3 (38:11):

So next, next week we will start those new cohorts. And then on 29th, there will be more kids joining us, um, for riding the bus from school, from their elementary school, to our building, which is something we've never been able to do before. So again, something new that is an Avenue, and we've always wanted to make our building a mega site, you know, mega center where we can move through different activities and stations. And that, you know, we have one set up for all of the kids, rather than this roving kind of station that goes from one school to the next. We just think it could be so much greater and so much more efficient, um, and provide so many more opportunities for kids. So we're just kind of getting over the hump of COVID. So my, um, or hybrid. So when people are asking and they are asking about summer, and next, next year, we are giving them deadlines of what we, where we want to, where our target is for launching information and where they can go to find that Mark your calendar for this day on, at this site, we will have the information posted there.

Speaker 3 (39:22):

So having that central place for parents to go, even when we don't know right now, giving them a date and a place to check is really comforting to them. They put it on their calendar. Okay. I know I can't do anything about that right now. I'm going to check there later. We oftentimes run out of room. So parents are very much acutely aware that they need to get on the stick when the, when we open those Gates.

Speaker 4 (39:48):

Yeah. That makes sense. That's a really good pointer. I think for people that might be listening to this, when we, when we posted in terms of just practical tips to be successful in that communication with families, if you don't know the answers right now, which many schools and school systems, don't because there's still things that are moving forward with COVID and restrictions, giving dates and specific places to look on those dates, to get information, we'll buy you some time. So to speak, parents have a comfort level then that they know when they can go get those answers. That's good. Um, I want to shift gears a little bit and be respectful of time. I always say that sometimes I, I think in a recent podcast, we went way over. And so I want to make sure I'm cognizant of time, but I've noticed a theme.

Speaker 4 (40:32):

So one of the great things about this podcast is, you know, when, when the production team goes dark and I just get to kind of ask questions and we get to have fun chatting, I can take this whatever direction, uh, I want. Uh, and I've heard a theme from you and I, what I love about this podcast is that in addition to the practical piece of running childcare and afterschool programs and learning about the mechanics of that, you know, for us, we also realize that there's tremendous value in the stories of the people that are doing this, like their stories and how they go about things and their life. Uh, and so I've heard a theme, a couple of things you've mentioned on this interview about the ranch, the pony class I read in your bio, the bunny that you have. So am I right to assume that there's Renee has some property and there's animals involved on some level in your lifestyle?

Speaker 3 (41:24):

I love living outside. Um, I love being outside. I love nature and wild animals and domestic animals, and I'm not like a cat person or a dog person. I'm not a, any of that. I, if you had to, if you had to, um, uh, like pinpoint that, that would be, I am a bunny person and a pony person, a horse person. Um, those are my two favorites. Um, but I love all, all animals, um, prior to moving to our, um, timber property. Um, we raised, um, fiber goats. So, um, angoras Pythagoras colored angoras and very involved in four H four H leader. I was four H alumni, um, uh, back in Applegate, Michigan, a really small rural community, um, where there wasn't much to do so, you know, we we'd get on these ponies and we would just ride all day long and through fields. And that's all we did all summer was just right. And so, um, that, the thought of being able to do that again just is, um, kind of invigorates me, I think, could I really do that? Could I ride a pony all day? Probably not, but

Speaker 5 (42:43):

I want to give it a side where they literally ponies or where they horses and they're a day.

Speaker 3 (42:49):

Yes, there is a difference. Um, in my younger years they were ponies, um, all ponies, all, uh, ponies from the auction, um, rank ponies, you know, nobody wanted that. My mom thought that would be a good project for us kids. And so, um, our first point he was $9. And, um, uh,

Speaker 5 (43:13):

Did you have to finance that or was that all cash? All cash $9. Okay.

Speaker 3 (43:21):

Anyway, but then, um, you know, my adult life, uh, you know, when we started having kids, I knew the value of, of kids, uh, taking care of something and that responsibility and, um, that, you know, you'd just that kids have that kind of thing has to be a lifestyle. It has to work into your life. It's not something that you do extra, you know, that you, um, when you take on a critter, doesn't matter what kind they become part of your day. It's not just like, if I have time I'm going to feed that animal or I'm going to muck out their stall or whatever. It's like, okay. In the mornings, this is what we do. So, um, uh, my kids got a handful of cereal on their way out to door to do chores. And then when, after the animals ate, they got breakfast.

Speaker 3 (44:14):

And so, um, it just set the tone. It wasn't an extra thing. It was just, you know, what we, what we do. And so we did, um, sell our farm. And, um, so where we're at right now, we have cougars. So we're pretty limited on what kind of animals we would have outside. But, um, I do have Tim Tam, the bunny, and, um, she is a Jersey, Willie just super, super sweet, low bunny. And, um, uh, and so, yeah, we, we don't have any dogs right now. We don't have any cats. We just have the bunny,

Speaker 4 (44:49):

You have the bunny. So is it true that bunnies they're like escape artists aren't they like the only person or people I know that have had bunnies. So you've had both bunnies and goats. And my personal story on this, my wife got, was raised. It sounds like really similar to you. She grew up on property and had horses. And that was like how she spent her childhood. And then she married me and like, that's not part of my background at all. And so I think like, that's all through the years of our marriage, there's been different times. She's had horses, but she convinced me at one point we moved to property and we lived on 20 acres and we had a big pasture and she wanted goats. And I don't know anything about NGOs, but, you know, um, like our kids were younger. I'm like, all right, we'll get some goats. And the only thing I remember about those goats is like, the pasture was like a, like a suggestion for them of where they should stay, because they, like, I had, they were like magic. I would drive down our driveway on my way to work. And they would be somewhere else on the property. I have no idea how they got out and bunnies are like that too. Right? Like they just, if you don't watch them, they get they escape.

Speaker 3 (45:53):

That is true. The, um, you know, we, we always felt like it was a really good idea to get things set up for whatever animals you decide to get. So, you know, non climb fencing for the horses and tall fence in the goat pasture. And, um, but we didn't anticipate how high a Lama can jump. Um, so we felt like when we, we got a Lama and we felt like, you know, we should keep them separate from the goats and the horses, because that, I wasn't sure how everybody would interact. And we usually have like this meet and greet kind of area, you know, where everybody kinda can touch noses. And if they don't like each other, they, you know, go back away and it's not a confrontation or a territorial thing. Um, but the Lama decided that he just wanted to be where the action was.

Speaker 3 (46:49):

So if the goats were like doing something exciting, he would jump over where, where the goats were. If the horses were running around, he would jump over with the horses. So he CA he was kinda more like our escape artists than, um, than anything. Luckily, um, we had a higher electric Hotwire on the top, and he pretty much respected that for the main parameter of, you know, the whole property. So, um, so we didn't have so much problem with the goats unless somebody left the gate open, which has happened. Um, and I found that with, with bunnies, if you're going to let them free roam a little, it's really good to have something that's not comma flushed with the area that you're at. So for instance, I probably would not feel comfortable getting a Brown bunny because I wouldn't be able to see them in the area that we have, but a white and gray bunny or apricots broken apricots or orange, or, um, and so what did I get a black money, a black bunny. That's what, that's what I got now. So I'm not probably like part of what I, what my logical, you know, kind of thing is, but she was just so sweet and she's so cuddly. And so anyway,

Speaker 4 (48:08):

Yeah, yeah. You can't go window shopping for animals either. My, like, we've made that mistake before. Like, we're just going to go look and to your point, like, I would never get a black bunny, but you go look at it and you're not going to say no to that. So you become, you become how high can llamas jump just to go back.

Speaker 3 (48:24):

So, you know, the fence that we had at that time was five feet. Um, yeah. And we, and we never would see him jump. So like, I don't know. Did he, did he get tangled up in it at all? I, we couldn't, there wasn't any for on the, on the fence at all. So I think he cleared it, like plum cleared it. And, um, so anyway, but

Speaker 4 (48:49):

Yeah, so they're like goats, they're like magic, you know, like same thing. I never saw how they got out, but they're like, they're out and I have no idea yet. All right. So llamas and goats, maybe they have a little bit of the same like superpowers. Alright. So Renee, last, last question. This is fun. I appreciate you talking a little bit about, um, what about for you? Last question, just a fun question to ask perfect Saturday for you. So we know what you do Monday through Friday. We know next week is going to be a busy week, but when you look at all right, I have a completely free Saturday and I get to spend it however I want. What does that look like for you, for you and your,

Speaker 3 (49:30):

Is it raining or is it sunny? Let's go. Okay. All right. Well, we have a ton of firewood to put up because of that recent, um, uh, storm. And it would be, feel really good to get that check off our list. Although we also have like some property, um, like border walking to do. And, um, the property that we bought is a old dynamite plant. And, um, there are some signs that, uh, note, you know, the explosives do not enter like on trees. So I would really love to go take some photographs of that, some black and white sepia tone and put that in, um, some decor thing that I'm working on, um, for the home that we just moved into. So, um, so I think that would be, that would be pretty sweet to just go tromp around, um, and find them assigns and take some pictures. And, um, yeah, luckily my husband likes that too.

Speaker 4 (50:30):

So is that a, is that a morning activity? So are you, you're like up a cup of coffee and then we'd like to spend that time in the morning or is that more like, would be an afternoon,

Speaker 3 (50:39):

But let's let it warm up a little bit. You know, this time of year, the woods can get, you know, kind of, kind of damp and cold. So I'd kind of like to like warm up in the sunshine a little bit, do some putts and outside, look at the plants and all the new growth and buds. And then, and then we'd probably, maybe we might even pack a lunch. We've done that too, where we just kind of sit on a tree stump and, um, get a backpack and have some lunch,

Speaker 4 (51:05):

Have a good day in the woods. Sounds like, uh, my kind of day. And, and then I think I said this a minute ago. Final question. So famous last words. This will be my, my final question, but, but I, you know, one of the things that I love to glean from individuals that have been in the industry for as long as you have, especially because, you know, I think our audience will include new entrepreneurs that are looking to get into childcare. And those that are maybe considering moving from directors or teachers and kind of pushing into this, like, if any, for you like any words of advice to like encourage people to come into our space and into our industry that, that you could share that might, um, whether it's words of wisdom or encouragement to people that are maybe thinking about being in childcare,

Speaker 3 (51:50):

I guess, you know, I go back to that same, um, that same staff mentality. You know, if you can see yourself working with kids, providing something for families, if you feel like that's your calling, if you will, then I think you should do it. You know, if you are in it to make a million bucks, probably not. But if you have a passion for helping and you see that, that you are really making a difference in your community and in our economy, you know, we saw what the lack of childcare did to our work, our workforce and what that meant. Um, so being a part of something so significant, um, I think, I think you should just go for it. I mean, there's, yeah, there's stuff that you've got to work out, but, you know, during the beginning of, um, comprehensive distance learning, you know, I saw so many parents just with that deer in the headlights look about what am I going to do?

Speaker 3 (52:55):

I don't like I got to work. Even if I can work from home, I can't do this and that. And so, um, you know, providing that service was, it was really, really, um, rewarding to be able to help in that really basic level of, you know, what parents like really need. And so, um, you know, I even thought about doing something on my own, um, breaking away from the school district, just because I saw such a need, especially in the K one, um, group where they just need that first time experience of this is what we do. And this is when we do it, and this is how we do it. This is how we get along. These are the expectations, you know, kind of gently guiding them into what school looks like. A lot of kids go to preschool, but, but we, but not everybody, not, not every child has a preschool experience for whatever reason.

Speaker 3 (53:57):

You know, a lot of kids that don't go to preschool come to kindergarten, fully prepared because they've been involved in a co-op or, you know, their parents have, um, done the basic, you know, schoolwork with them, or, you know, so it's, it's not a matter of that, but it's a matter of, this is how school structure works. This is how we get along with each other. And so I would say, boy, if you are even thinking about that, don't think of the reasons why you can't think of the reasons why it's a good thing for you to do.

Speaker 4 (54:33):

That's a excellent way to end, uh, this session and this podcast. And it's true, you know, I mean, I think what you just said is number one, it's meaningful work. I think everybody wants to be a part of something that's bigger than themselves. And so it's meaningful. And the other side of that, like you said, even thinking about where can I go and serve my community there's opportunity right now, there's opportunity coming out of this. And we need people to step in. And like we talked about at the beginning of the, of the episode is kind of stand in the gap, fill the gap. So, um, Renee, I'll tell you what, it's been a lot of fun, just getting to chat with you on a Friday morning, it's going to be a beautiful weekend and you did a fantastic job. So thank you so much.

Speaker 3 (55:12):

Thank you so much. It was so fun. I wasn't, I wasn't sure exactly if we are going to be all business or, you know, but I really, um, had a good time. It was really nice. Wonderful. Thank you so much. Thank you, sir.

Speaker 1 (55:26):

Thank you for listening to this episode of the childcare business podcast, to get more insights on ways to succeed in your childcare business, make sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app. So you never miss an episode. And if you want even more childcare business tips, tricks and strategies, head over to our resource [email protected] until next time.