2007-08-17 / Community

Dayton Towers Closes Early Learning Center

Legalities Force Hand In Board's Decision
By Miriam Rosenberg

Ellen Gonzalez and Jean McKenna offer support to Charlyene Blunt, the owner, director and teacher of the Infinity Early Learning Center. Ellen Gonzalez and Jean McKenna offer support to Charlyene Blunt, the owner, director and teacher of the Infinity Early Learning Center. Residents of Dayton Towers filled the room where the Board of Directors for the Dayton Beach Park #1 Corporation held its meeting this week, to voice displeasure with the board's decision not to renew the lease of the Infinity Early Learning Center which has served the complex for the last few years.

Numerous shareholders, mostly parents, expressed anger and bewilderment at losing a school that has been there, in some form, for almost 40 years.

One shareholder, Renee MacLeod, received applause from other parents as she seemed to express the feelings of those who were there.

"It is a nurturing and quality educational environment. So much so that when our son Brendan graduated this past June, he was accepted into the ASTRE Program for Gifted and Talented Children along with every other child who has graduated from our little Dayton school who took the test," said MacLeod.

"The fact that this board is considering getting rid of a program with a teacher like Mrs. [Charlyene] Blunt, who is Montessori-trained with a master's degree, certified in special education, with over 20 years experience, goes way beyond a bad business decision that I do not understand. Therefore, I can only conclude that this is either personally or racially motivated."

Concerned shareholders, residents and others affected by the board's decision talk outside the meeting room on Monday night. Concerned shareholders, residents and others affected by the board's decision talk outside the meeting room on Monday night. Attorney Dean Roberts, of Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus, spoke with The Wave. He said the decision had nothing to do with race, as he explained the legal problems facing the board.

Roberts said Blunt's lease expired a year and a half ago.

"In late April, early May, Miss Blunt circulated a flyer offering a tutorial program in violation of the [previous] lease," said Roberts. "She was basically offering services not allowed under the lease."

Roberts was referring to the fact that Blunt applied to run a city-funded universal pre-k program and tutorial, violating her previous lease for a day care center for shareholders' children, 2-to- 6 years old.

Roberts also said Blunt knew in May about her month-to-month rental status and that the board wasn't sure it was going to renew the lease.

"Apparently, she went ahead and represented that she had a right to stay in the space," continued Roberts.

While Blunt acknowledges that her lease did expire in June 2005, it didn't occur to her that her lease would not be renewed.

"I guess legally, but no I did not know the possibility," said Blunt, the owner, director and teacher at the school. "I received no letter. I was not under that impression."

Roberts went on to say the co-op board's decision was also an economic one.

"I tell all my co-op clients the litigation is substantial, and it isn't worth it," he said.

Roberts pointed to the increased liability "If one of the children is hurt."

"Any type of lawsuit, if a child is injured or there's an allegation…there's multiple dollars in litigation. "In terms of fairness, I thought that the co-op letting her know in May that there was a good chance she wouldn't be renewed [was fair]."

Joanne Smith, the board's president, further explained their position.

"We tried to work with her [Blunt] on many occasions," said Smith. "When she did come, she had no business plan [for the pre-k]. When we asked if she registered any children, she said no. When we asked if she had a contract with the city, she said no.

"She didn't contact parents. They think the board is to blame. They should blame her for not letting them know."

As for the racism allegations, Smith said it is 150 percent false. "It is the biggest untruth and very upsetting she [Blunt] would do that. We did what was in the best interest of Dayton Beach. We are a business."

While Blunt believed that she walked away from a July 17 meeting with a $700-a-month lease, Smith said a motion was never put on the table at that meeting.

"It was a meeting to sit with Miss Blunt and renegotiate her lease," said Smith. "There was no motion made to accept the amount."

With only eight of the 15 board members present at the July meeting, Smith said the vote that was taken was to decide what to bring to the entire board.

While Blunt believes the tapes of the meeting will back her up, Smith asked the newspaper to talk with the building manager - Tracy Wright - for confirmation that no motion was made. The Wave was unable contact Wright.

In addition to contacting parents, Blunt did say she stopped accepting registration for the day care center when she was notified about the lease problem in May.

Yet, one parent's comment seems to counter that and at the same time, shows the frustration with the situation.

"It's terrible. We registered in early June," said Ellen Gonzalez, about her daughter. "She is ready to go. We were sent a letter that it's closing. We don't know why or where to send her."

One board member who was at the July 17 meeting said he left the meeting thinking Blunt had a lease, but that the legalities of the pre-k were still in question.

"I had no idea they would completely shut her down," said the board member, who did not want to be identified.

The learning center, under Blunt, opened in 2004 after the previous one closed several years earlier.

Blunt said she has to vacate the space by August 31 or face eviction.

"I will be seeking to find other space, but at this late date that seems impossible," said Blunt. "I have over 32 families [registered] and I don't know what to do."

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