SCHOOL HISTORY SUMMARY
Dutch Neck Presbyterian Church Cooperative Nursery School has been in existence since 1969. The possibility of starting a cooperative nursery school was first discussed in the spring of that year. A committee of Church women approached the Church Session to determine support for the idea. In August 1969, the formal proposal to establish the School was adopted by the Session and a temporary steering committee was formed to organize the School. Within one month, a teacher was hired, the classroom was made ready and equipment was purchased or donated. The first day of class for the new school was September 15, 1969.
In October, 1969, the first General Membership meeting was held. Officers were appointed and Trustees were selected. It was agreed that the role of classroom Trustees would be filled by church members who would act as liaisons between the class parents, the Board of Directors and, in turn, the Church. This allowed for communication to be kept open between the school and the Church at all times.
In January, 1970, By-Laws were drawn up and a registration fee was approved. It was noted that a committee of fathers would repair playground equipment. Temporary State Certification was given in February, 1970, with a notation that the teacher would need additional college credit and that playground enclosure was necessary for full certification. Housekeeping schedules were developed and detailed lists of helping mother and housekeeping duties were posted. In September, 1970, the school received full certification from the State, the enclosure of the playground being temporarily waived.
In 1971, a new four year old class was added and a new teacher was hired for the three year olds. Plans for financing the playground fence were begun. 1972 was a year of clarification and change with regard to existing procedures. Article XII of the By-Laws was amended to ensure prompt payment of tuition or a child would not be permitted to attend school. An assistant teacher for the three year olds was hired. Payment to mothers who substituted for teachers was established. A fund-raising committee and a housekeeping chairman and committee were added. 1973 saw more refinement of the By-Laws and the beginnings of several traditions which are still continued. The school would now follow the West Windsor-Plainsboro school calendar. The following committees were added: purchasing, publicity, emergency baby-sitting, substitute assistant teachers, and a registrar’s committee. The first edition of a monthly newsletter was distributed and the first Dad’s Day was held. State certification was renewed.
In 1974, the school began to use the small downstairs classroom. Additional State requirements were met by posting a list of each child’s name, doctor, and emergency telephone contact. Also, it was necessary to have a doctor on call at all times. Due to the lack of safety glass, the State also required the installation of boards across the large glass windows as a safety precaution. Fathers completed the job. An order of preference for admission was established: church members, alumni, West Windsor residents and others. The first school pictures were taken. 1975 brought another change to the By-Laws which stated that the nursery school would begin classes the first full week of the WW-P school district and that classes would end the last week in May. Holidays would correspond with the WW-P schools. In 1976, problems with housekeeping, poor meeting attendance, and unfulfilled helping mothers duties were discussed and penalties were suggested. Committee chairmen were given the responsibility of enforcing the duties that had been neglected. In the fall, everyone was asked to sign up for two committees. A discussion group was held in the spring to ease parents’ anxieties regarding kindergarten. The practice has continued each spring.
In 1977, the three year old classes were divided into two sessions for the first day of class, as is still done. Fire drills were held throughout the year. In November, the position of Director was established and Carolyn Watson, a teacher at the school since 1972 was hired and paid an additional salary for carrying out the duties as director. In the fall of 1978, an afternoon four year old class was added and a parents’ work day was held to prepare the classrooms for the year. The Trustees were given the task of rewriting the By-Laws. 1979 was the first year that the school had two registrars. In the fall, a logo was chosen for the school, regular newsletters were written, calendars were hung with helping mother days posted and the C.O.P.E. program was introduced with parents helping to implement the program. The school philosophy was written in 1980, and the order of admission was changed: church members, alumni, and first come basis from all areas. A $10 fine was imposed for missed helping mother days. The church nursery room was used for a new three year old class and T-shirts with the new logo were sold.
By 1981, the school had added a three day class for three year olds making a total of six classes. A school brochure was developed for prospective students. Instead of a luncheon, the Officer-Teacher Thank You Dinner preceded the January meeting. The practice of Trustee-hosted coffee on the first day of school was begun and extended day was offered for the first time. A telephone for exclusive nursery school use was installed to meet a new State requirement. In 1982, a new upstairs classroom was discussed in order to make more spaces available for returning and incoming fours. A five day class was discussed. Officers’ mailboxes and a locked file cabinet were added and a first aid person was appointed to meet a State requirement. The By-Laws were amended loosening the requirement of Church members holding Board positions. The Church, instead, would appoint two persons to sit on the Board as representatives.
In 1983, the tuition due date was changed to July 15th to facilitate the Registrars’ paperwork and handbook printing, extra railings were installed to meet State requirements so that the upstairs classroom could be used and the school was again certified. A five day, four year old class was offered and the number of three year olds increased in each class with an extra assistant hired to rotate to each class as needed. Assistant Trustees were appointed and a new school brochure containing no dated material was designed by two fathers. Ten minute school orientations were held in early 1984. Cathy Griffin became the new director. The number of three year olds was reduced per class as the Board felt that the previous increase did not allow for necessary teacher attention. By-Law revision, begun in 1984, continued into 1985, and included the addition of a vice-president and the renaming of past vice-presidents as registrars and purchaser. Admission order was clarified also. The demand for positions in the school made registration changes necessary along with the use of a P.O. box number for the mailing and return of applications. A cover letter was sent out with applications explaining the expectations of coop members and acknowledgment letter was sent once an application and registration fee was received. Highlights of Board meetings were posted and a newsletter schedule had been established. The school integrated a developmental learning approach based on the Gesell philosophy. Through this approach four year olds may be screened for kindergarten-readiness. In 1987, the 5 day class was dropped in order that two four year old classes could be offered three mornings a week.
In the spring of 1990 DNPCCNS celebrated its 20th Anniversary. In addition, the school became accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Association. After the 1989-1990 school year ended, Cathy Griffin left her position to return to pursue a Masters Degree after six years as Director and 15 years as a teacher at the nursery school. Penny Muschett accepted the position of Acting Director for the 1990-1991 school year.
In November 1990, the Church appointed two Church Liaisons, members of the co-op organization who were to interact with the Christian Education Committee and the Facilities Committee. Church Liaisons still serve on the school’s Board of Directors today and the Executive Board without vote. In 1995, the school began doing criminal background checks on all employees. In the winter of 1996, Penny Muschett resigned from the Director position. Candice Stults, a teacher in the school, accepted the position of Director of Curriculum and Staff, which she held for five years. In 1996, a new computer was purchased and space in the resource room was designated by the Church for use by administrative staff. Judy Duke was hired as the Business Director, having been the Assistant Director since 1990, to have someone available to the Board and parent membership. The position title was later changed to Administrative Director.
During the school year of 1996-1997, the Board discussed and approved adding two 2 ½ year old classes which would meet two days per week for 2 hours, made up of 10 children each. Session approved the use of the Nursery room. During the summer of 1997, the nursery school refurbished the room, replacing tile floor and carpet, and adding cabinetry in the bathroom, and hired new staff. In September 1997, the 2 ½ year old classes had some vacancies, but each year thereafter were fully subscribed before school began. The 1997-1998 school year was the first for the school to have the 2 ½ year old program.
In June 1999, DNPCCNS celebrated the 30th anniversary of the school, with a catered picnic and games and activities for the children. Past Presidents and Directors were invited to attend as well as all students of the current year and those enrolled for the fall of 1999. In the fall of 1999, the new playground was installed with new equipment and impact absorbing playground mulch.
In the summer of 2001, the Administration was reorganized and the position of Program Coordinator was developed from the Director of Curriculum and Staff position. Barbara Fruh, a teacher with the school, was appointed to the position, replacing Linda Rosania, who had been Program Coordinator since the departure of Candice Stults.
Thus, originally started by Church members for their children, Dutch Neck Presbyterian Church Cooperative Nursery School has grown from one teacher, two classes (28 children), into a well-known, well-respected, and nationally accredited nursery school of 162 children, with 11 classes and 14 teachers. Through the cooperative efforts of members and staff and support and supervision of the Church, it will continue to grow.
1969-1984 summary compiled by Linda Towner in April, 1984 from
“Dutch Neck Presbyterian Church Cooperative Nursery School a History 1969-1984”.
(School history is in the downstairs workroom – reading it is recommended).