http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/03/15/centerpointe-preschool-closes-for-training-after-incident


Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 15, 2013

Centerpointe preschool closes for training after incident

Church regrouping in the aftermath of photo showing toddler bound with masking tape

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Centerpointe Christian Preschool is closed until Wednesday for staff to get extra training and for management to review procedures after it was discovered that a teacher bound a 2-year-old with masking tape.

"We'll do training Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Saturday and Sunday will not be all-day sessions but there will be hours spent each day," church spokesman Tim Hunt said.

Investigators from the Pleasanton Police Department have interviewed the preschool's staff, and a statement from the church notes, "We are cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation and the legal outcome is unknown."

As of press time, the investigation was continuing.

Until October, the preschool had a spotless record. Then, in the period of five months, the school, based at the church on Cornerstone Court, received eight citations from the state Department of Social Services, which oversees preschools and daycare centers.

This week, the preschool received its most serious violation to date, after a picture of a 2-year-old girl with her wrists and ankles bound with masking tape was shown by former teacher Angela Calcagno to the girl's mother.

The picture was taken by Calcagno, and apparently shown to the child's mother -- another teacher --at a social gathering. It's unknown when the photo was taken.

"We haven't seen the picture. The cops presumably have seen the picture although I do not know that for a fact," Hunt said. "The only people I know who have seen the picture are two teachers -- one, the mother of the child and another teacher."

The state DSS has apparently seen the photo, too, according to a report filed March 7.

"It was nap time and according to the complainant, the child would not take her nap. A staff member who is no longer employed at the center told the child that if she did not take a nap, that the staff member was going to tie her up. The child continued to refuse a nap, and the staff member tied up the child's ankles with masking tape," that report said.

"This photograph was then shared with current and former staff members of the facility. It was confirmed that the photograph showed the girl with her ankles and wrists tied with masking tape while sitting on her cot at the facility."

In a separate letter, dated March 11, the preschool teacher who bound the child was declared a threat by DSS.

Calcagno, who quit Centerpointe Christian Preschool in February, was ordered by the state not to have any contact with clients or to be "physically present" at the school.

"The Department has determined that the continued or future presence of this person in your facility constitutes a threat to the health and safety of the clients in your care," a letter from DSS to the preschool says.

Failure to comply could lead to the suspension or revocation of Centerpointe's license.

"The department's top priority is the children in their care," said DSS spokesman Michael Weston.

The child's mother has also left her position, Hunt said.

Until this week, the school had largely minor violations, all of which began in October when the school was cited three times.

Two citations were for leaving 12 preschool children in a room unsupervised -- apparently for less than a minute -- and for leaving bleach where it could be reached in the same room.

Hunt said that occurred when a teacher, who was using bleach on art pieces the children were working on, stepped outside to hang the art.

The third citation that same day came when an inspector from DSS determined the preschool had not conducted a fire drill in the last six months.

An inspection in December showed no violations, but in January, the preschool was cited four times in a single visit by DSS.

The preschool allowed a 17-year-old volunteer to supervise children on a single day in January and it was fined $150.

"On Jan. 24, that was just a flat error, no sugar-coating it -- a 17-year-old was supervising children," Hunt said.

The school was also cited on that visit for leaving a bottle of bleach in a laundry area where it could be reached by children, and for leaving two metal stumps -- once part of a bench -- sticking out of the ground.

Those metal stumps have been removed, and staff discussed better handling of potential dangerous items.

"You coach, you council and you train your whole team," Hunt said.

The visit also confirmed a complaint that the preschool's former director, Greg Robitaille, had been bringing his infant son to the center to be cared for by staff. He was ordered by the state not to bring his son in again.

In February, the school was cited by the DSS because at four classrooms, the number of children on the sign in/sign out sheet did not match those in attendance. According to the DSS report dated Feb. 13, parents hadn't signed their children in.

Hunt said that shows the facility was making progress.

"It was a darn strong program and something goes off track. We were making steps to get it back on track and then this happens," Hunt said, referring to the incident surrounding the 2-year-old.

With one class B violation in February, he said, "In our mind, that speaks to progress being made, and then this other thing pops."

Weston said the DSS is taking the case seriously.

"In this case here, you have a facility that has a recent history of non compliance issues, and DSS has a variety of enforcement measures we can use," he said. "The focus of our enforcement and our licensing is to protect the children in their care. If a single incident rises to the level where the department feels there's a need to close a facility, we can close a facility in a day."

In general, he said, there is an escalation that begins with citing a facility.

"There's 10,523 daycare centers in the state. That's just daycare centers, not counting daycare (in private) homes. Citations are something the department writes every day. The standard is compliance."

Pastor Mike Barris said the congregation at Centerpointe was "appalled and shocked" at the incident.

There have been six resignations by teachers in the preschool and one in the school-age program during the time surrounding Robitaille's resignation, although the church will not provide details due to employee confidentiality. A search for a new director was set to start this week.

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