Press-Republican

August 17, 2013

Doug's Place day-care director removed

KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

SARANAC LAKE — Doug’s Place day-care center here remained open Friday though its director has been removed by state authorities.

An investigation of Rhonda L. Preston is ongoing, according to Office of Children and Family Services spokeswoman Casey McNulty.

Many of the alleged violations named by the state in an online report center around punishment and behavior-management practices.

Via email, McNulty said that, on Aug. 1, “the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) delivered a letter withdrawing its approval of the director of the Lake Placid Community Day Care Center at Doug’s Place ... (and) informed the director that she is to have no child-care role at the center.

“OCFS continues to closely monitor the program for compliance and adherence to all health and safety standards.”

‘SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS’

McNulty provided the Press-Republican with a copy of the letter.

Addressed to Preston, it says Family Services “received a complaint with serious allegations regarding your day-care center on July 17, 2013. The allegations are currently under investigation by the office.”

Inspection records posted on the Family Services website indicate repeated alleged violations to New York Codes, Rules and Regulations pertaining to day-care centers filed under Preston’s license as Lake Placid Community Day Care Center at Doug’s Place.

The inspections noted were conducted in January, February and March of this year, as well as on July 16 and July 18.

Others took place in April and May 2012.

The document notes that inspections were done June 19 and and Aug. 8 but the findings of those were not yet posted.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

A July finding says: “Isolating a child in a closet, darkened area or any area where the child cannot be seen and supervised by a staff member is prohibited.”

Another regulation the Family Services report says Preston broke is one that prohibits corporal punishment.

“This includes punishment inflicted directly on the body including, but not limited to, spanking, biting, shaking, slapping, twisting or squeezing; demanding excessive physical exercise, prolonged lack of movement or motion, or strenuous or bizarre postures; and compelling a child to eat or have in the child’s mouth soap, foods, hot spices or other substances.”

Repeatedly in reports dating to May 2012, findings say: “Children cannot be left without competent direct supervision at any time.”

Another rule referenced from a July inspection says: “Methods of discipline, interaction or toilet training which frighten, demean or humiliate a child are prohibited.”

The report shows several alleged violations cited by the agency from inspections on Feb. 6, 2013, and earlier had been corrected, among them a failure to cover garbage containers and unsafe storage of such items as matches, lighters, drugs and cleaning materials.

INVESTIGATION ONGOING

Ms. Jamie L. Basiliere, director of the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, Inc. in Plattsburgh helps train child-care providers in Franklin County.

“From the violations posted on the website, there’s no way for me or you to know what is definitively true, what truly happened,” she said. 

“That is the job of the Office of Children and Family Services. It is their responsibility to investigate the complaints and enforce the regulations.”

Doug’s Place is one of five slated for Universal Pre-K funding from the Saranac Lake Central School District in the coming school year.

That status was not clear on Friday, and SLCS Superintendent Diane Fox could not be reached for comment.

The state has licensed Doug’s Place to provide care for as many as six infants, 12 toddlers, and 20 preschoolers.

Preston’s initial license was granted at the end of December 2004.

Lake Placid attorney Brian Barrett is representing her; he could not be reached for comment Friday.

‘NOT TRUDEAU EMPLOYEES’

Doug’s Place is located on property owned by Trudeau Institute.

Trudeau Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Lawrence Johnson said Friday via email that “Doug’s Place is the name of a building owned by the Trudeau Institute in which the Lake Placid Community Day Care Center is operated by Ms. Preston.   

“She holds the license and has a contract with Trudeau to operate the center, but she is neither paid by Trudeau nor does she pay rent to Trudeau.”

Johnson said Trudeau receives no income from the operation of the child-care center.

Doug’s Place provides care for children of Trudeau employees as well as for children of non-employees, he said.

Neither Preston nor any of her staff members “are or ever have been Trudeau employees.”

The investigation of this matter, Johnson said, lies with the state and Preston.

Email Kim Smith Dedam:kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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READ THE REPORT

Find the State Office of Children and Family Services document regarding Lake Placid Community Day Care Center at Doug's Place: http://tinyurl.com/qz5zmpm.