NYC Department of Health has confirmed that no qualified educational or teacher director was on site at Royal Crown Day Care during any of the agency’s twelve inspections, dating back as far as December 2009. A qualified educational director is a requirement for operating a day care center in New York City, and they’re in charge of activity and educational planning and leading the educational staff.
Educational directors must be registered with the DOH, and the agency indicated that Royal Crown had employed one on paper but that the employee was never on the scene. DOH could not comment further as it is an ongoing investigation.
Royal Crown’s attorney, S. John Bate Esq., said that it was all a mix up due to “some confusion.”
According to Bate, Royal Crown hired someone and submitted paperwork, but the woman never showed up and wasn’t on the payroll. Because of that, an Aisha Okoro was “slotted temporarily to do that role,” but it appears Okoro may have been unqualified.
Royal Crown Pre-School Academy and Day Care Center was closed on June 15 when the DOH revoked its permit after finding 14 staff members lacked required clearances and four teachers lacked required qualifications, in addition to the missing on-site educational director. The Department also found Royal Crown Day Care to be packing students into rooms and exceeding capacity, while not meeting the required staff-to-child ratios.
Bate will be heading to New York State Supreme Court tomorrow to seek reinstatement of Royal Crown’s permit, pending reviews of the violations that he said will clear the business’ name.
“Months will go by” before the review process begins, he said. “There will be a loss of business, a loss of money, a loss of jobs, not to mention parents need their kids taken care of … I don’t see why there can’t be compliance time.”
He intends to show that the DOH violations aren’t sufficient reason to justify closure, the agency did not give enough time to rectify the problems, and closure is causing undue financial burden that may put Royal Crown out of business forever.
Most of the violations were paperwork-related, and some were even errors inspectors made during the eight-hour visits, Bate said. The lack of clearances, for example, is because the fingerprints have been sent to Albany for review, but the agency takes time to return them and there are “provisions” to employ the workers in the meantime.
“It takes a while,” he said. “It’s not unusual and there are ways to deal with that.”
Moreover, he said the child-instructor ratio was just two over the limit.
“Where’s the danger to safety? Where’s the danger to health? Where’s the danger to the children they’re trying to protect?” Bate asked. “It just doesnt seem right or fair.”
Bate added that the business was not given enough time to rectify the violations, though the DOH is required to give two weeks to a month on certain violations and 24 hours on others. But he said Royal Crown’s owners were originally told during their June 14 inspection that they had until July to fix the problems. Staff members were surprised when the DOH turned up the next day and closed down the facility.
Owners of Royal Crown Day Care and Bate believe that the DOH’s heavy-handedness have little to do with children’s safety, but are retribution for complaints made about the agency’s practices. Even before the day care opened, Royal Crown received calls from competitors who warned that they’d be shut down by the DOH. After opening, DOH paid several visits, but they received no violations. The agency is required to respond to any and all complaints.
Feeling harassed, owner Boris Rey fired off a letter to State Senator Marty Golden’s office. The letter complained about inspectors’ attitudes and treatment of his employees, and also the agency’s willingness to play into his competitors’ tactics. Golden’s office forwarded the letter to the DOH, a move which Bate said brought the agency’s anger against his client.
“I’m not saying Mr. Rey is an angel, but whatever they’re trying to prove here isn’t to do with the operation of the day care, it’s something else,” he said.
“They complained about the way the DOH treated them, and instead on getting help from Golden’s office they handed it over to the DOH who read it and responded, “Oh, okay, we’re going to fix you now,” Bate said.
Golden’s office rebutted allegations that the case was handled inappropriately by saying they followed procedure.
“When a resident or community organization contact Senator Golden’s office for assistance with a New York City or State agency, it is the policy of the staff to contact the necessary or appropriate agency in an effort to be of assistance in resolving the matter,” said John Quaglione, a spokesperson for Senator Golden. “Such is the case in this matter which was brought to our attention by the Royal Crown Day Care.”
Until those issues are sorted out, Bate is moving to get Royal Crown’s 18 employees back to work. He’s prepared a packet that includes supportive letters from parents, DOH’s documents, photos of the interior and exterior conditions of the school and more to sway Supreme Court decision-makers into reinstating Royal Crown’s permit until their DOH hearing date.
“Clearly we’re the underdog here in terms of the authority and power and influence in comparison to the DOH,” he said. “I’m just trying to level the playing field a little bit.”