GovernmentThe Examiner

Staffing an Obstacle to Accommodating Panther Club Wait List

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The 50 elementary school students on the wait list for the Panther Club after-school program since September are still waiting to be admitted.

The village-run recreation program addressed the issue for a second time at the last Pleasantville Village Board work session with parents and Superintendent of Recreation Mike Newman.

Newman said he sent an e-mail to all parents to see if their current needs had changed.

“The majority still needed the days they currently have,” Newman explained.  “Sometimes parents’ schedules change at the beginning of the month, and if there’s an opening, spots may open up. If that happens, we are able to go down the wait list.”

An outreach to those still on the waiting list showed no change in days originally requested.

Although the Panther Club’s license allows enrollment for up to 177 children, the biggest obstacle to expanding the program is hiring more staff. New hires have to meet special child care requirements set by the state and also undergo a background check. The proper ratio is two staffers for each group of 20 children.

Newman said he doesn’t have any qualified applications for Panther Club staff on file.

“Staffing issues are tough,” he said. “We have applicants that are either not qualified or not interested in committing to all five days. We actively pursue new hires five days a week on our website and we advertise on, which has been our best bet in the last year. But applications are not flooding in.”

More staff would be required if all 50 children on the wait list are added to the program.

Carrie Roberts, a parent of a fourth- and fifth-grader currently on the wait list who have both attended the Panther Club since they were in kindergarten, inquired about how much additional staff would be needed.

Students are grouped by age and the number of students signed up for different days varies, Newman said, so if all 50 children on the wait list were admitted, the program potentially would need about 10 new staffers. If the program added two new groups of 20 children each, it could require four new staff members.

The program, which operates out of Bedford Road Elementary School on school days from 3 to 6:30 p.m., currently has 130 children participating after school on various days.

An expanded Panther Club would also require more space at the school. About two weeks ago a meeting between Newman, Village Administrator Eric Morrissey, Bedford Road Principal Rachel Hunger and Pleasantville Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tina DeSa was held to discuss the availability of additional space at the school. According to Newman and Morrissey, more space could be made available if needed.

Cameron Cassidy, a parent who attended the work session via Zoom, asked about verifying the actual number of children using the club in case some youngsters didn’t attend on some days, especially children who meet for after-school recreation classes from 3 to 4 p.m. at school and then attend the Panther Club.

“Is there a way to look at students who are in rec classes and in Panther Club?” Cassidy asked. “Can that be used to fine-tune the numbers and get more clarity on how many kids are actually using the club?”

Looking to solve the potential overflow problem in the future was parent Julie Edwards.

“Can we come up with a solution going into next year? Part of the challenge people encounter in selecting days for their children’s after-school programs is it takes so long to find out when sports clubs or music lessons happen,” Edwards said. “All of that stuff affects the days that people want. We might think about how we might coordinate the sign-up for some of those things.”

Edwards pointed out that not knowing the time and day of other after-school clubs drives many parents to sign up for Panther Club for all five weekdays.

When the JCC on Bear Ridge Road in Pleasantville closed down in 2015, its after-school programs ceased. The village then stepped in and started the moderately-priced Panther Club as a temporary solution to after-school child care.

“This is a complicated business to be in and bigger and more complicated than we imagined,” said Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer adding the village is committed to the ongoing recruitment efforts for new hires.

Scherer acknowledged the known quality of the program because of its dedicated staff.

“It’s the best and worst job all rolled up in one because they love the kids, they love what they’re doing but with 130 kids and 200 parents involved there are issues every day,” Scherer said. “I tip my hat to the folks who do this and deliver in (the) good spirit and professionalism every day. If the program was weaker, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in.”

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