HISTORY OF WOODINVILLE FAMILY PRESCHOOL
Members of our preschool owe a debt of gratitude for the hard work and contributions of the staff and families who have preceded us and provided the facility and funding that we have today. Their efforts stand as a testimonial to the true spirit of parent cooperatives in working and dreaming together to provide for our preschool community. Just as families before us worked to insure the continuation of the quality program that we enjoy, it is now our responsibility to sustain our program, support our staff, and improve our facility and playground for families in the years to come. Let us find inspiration in the stories of the accomplishments of the members and staff who have come before us and resolve to continue their efforts in the true spirit of a cooperative preschool.
Woodinville Family Preschool began from the afternoon preschool group of the Bothell Cooperative Preschool in 1968. Wanting to meet as a morning class, the whole group moved to the First Baptist Church in Bothell with their own parent educator. When difficulties arose in negotiating continued rental space in Bothell, Shoreline Community College encouraged the group to move to Woodinville since there was no preschool serving this community. The group rented space first in the Cottage Brook Assembly Church and then in the basement of the Woodinville School, the two-story brick building located in downtown Woodinville. During this period classes were added to what was now the Woodinville Cooperative Preschool.
In May of 1974, the preschool temporarily rented what is now our current building. At that time, it was a clubhouse for the Woodinville Heights Homeowners Association. The grounds included a basketball hoop, swings, a jungle gym and a tall slide. All of the original playground equipment has been removed to comply with national playground safety standards. What is now the block room was simply an open carport. The preschool did not have exclusive use of the facility and was required to remove the school equipment during vacations, the summer, and when the homeowners planned a function in the building.
In November 1977, Mr. and Mrs. Egon Molbak donated a house to the preschool on the condition that the preschool move the building to a new site. Articles of Incorporation were signed June 1, 1978, in order to receive the building. Unable to find property to purchase, the preschool accepted the offer of Mr. Knedlik and Mr. Goodar to use their property located in downtown Woodinville, just south of the present 7-11 building. The preschool had the house moved at considerable expense and personal effort. The members built the foundation, constructed an access road, dug a side sewer, built a playground and effected electrical and plumbing hookups.
In 1978, Mr. Knedlik sold the property to Mr. Heck and Mr. Himmelsplach. They asked the preschool to move the building off the property and return the land to its original state. Due to a previous five-year verbal lease with the original owners, the attorney for the preschool negotiated a two-year lease with the new owners. During this time, efforts were made to find a suitable site for the building. With property so expensive, the preschool attempted to sell the building rather than relocate. The building was sold to Mr. Heck for $3,500 on April 8, 1980.
The efforts of the membership now turned to finding a new building, but nothing looked promising. Meanwhile, the Woodinville Heights Homeowners had found their clubhouse had grown to be burdensome. They were being sued by the county for back taxes, and upkeep on the building had become a chore. They gave the preschool an exclusive lease for one year while the preschool negotiated to acquire the building. Woodinville Cooperative Preschool finally received a conditional use permit on the condition that the building and grounds be used only as a preschool or related function. On September 18, 1981, the deed was signed over to Shoreline Community College, who then signed the deed to Woodinville Cooperative Preschool. In exchange for the building and grounds the membership agreed to pay half of the back taxes ($844.63) and sign a separate agreement with the following clauses:
1. The preschool shall hold harmless any homeowner from liability.
2. Homeowners have use of the playground under the following rules stipulated by Woodinville Family Preschool:
a. The playground is designed for use by young children only, and these children must be supervised by an adult.
b. Loitering is prohibited.
c. No motorized vehicles are permitted inside the fence.
d. No bikes inside the fence.
e. No animals on the property.
f. No use of the grounds while the preschool is in session.
g. The preschool grounds close at dusk.
h. Playground use is at your own risk.
3. The preschool cannot prevent recreational use of the property or an arbiter will be appointed.
4. The preschool will pay the assessment for street lighting for the development on a continuing basis.
The funds from the sale of the Woodinville house were then used to purchase materials to enclose the carport into the block room we have today. The members contributed the labor. The room was completed by the fall of 1982.
In February 1982, after the mid-year departure of the current teacher, Shoreline Community College and the preschool hired Dr. Cecile Mielenz to teach all of the classes and also serve as the director of the program. The following school year, 1982-83, Washington State faced a financial crisis and funding to the community colleges was drastically cut. Shoreline Community College was forced to cut back on the budget for parenting education programs. Dedicated parents in our preschool and across the state wrote letters to the colleges and the legislature, lobbied in Olympia, and marched in the rain around the state capitol in support of parenting education. In response, major funding was restored.
During 1984-85 the membership of Woodinville Cooperative Preschool raised funds and replaced the building roof, installed a Big Toy play structure, and erected a new fence. A bike path around the playground and new riding toys were contributed during l985-86. The membership added an indoor/outdoor storage addition to the building during l986-87 and 1987-88. During the latter school year new carpet was installed throughout the building. It was also in 1987-88 that the membership voted to change our name to Woodinville Family Preschool in order to comply with state laws for reincorporating. From l988 to l990, plans were made and completed for the development of the northwest corner of the playground, including installation of a grass-covered hill and a large digging area.
In the summer of 1990 we learned from the Washington Secretary of State office that the Woodinville Heights Homeowners Association was administratively dissolved on April 20, 1977. Our legal agreement with them regarding playground rules and streetlight payment is therefore no longer in effect. Our board, however, agreed to continue these two practices as a good neighbor. Since that time the streetlight payment has been divided among the neighborhood homes, and the preschool now pays only our share. In 2015 continued theft and vandalism on our playground has unfortunately resulted in our no longer being able to share the playground with our neighbors.
During the 1990-91 school year the ceiling in the upper room was replaced in order to remove asbestos, which had been discovered the prior spring. The 1991-92 annual improvement project was the installation of new cedar fencing on the southern and eastern boundaries of the property. In 1992-93 the membership accomplished many remodeling projects including the removal of the fireplace brick wall and replacement with a storage area, dividing the original resource room into a director’s office with a smaller resource room, remodeling the kitchen by adding a larger window and expanding the counter space, and landscaping to improve the outside appearance. In addition, on March 6 we celebrated our 25th anniversary. Mr. and Mrs. Molbak donated a flowering cherry tree to the preschool in honor of the occasion; this tree was destroyed by vandals in 1999. In 1993-94 the membership completed the installation of cedar fencing along the north side of the property.
During the 1994-95 school year a capital replacement fund was begun, and the preschool interior was painted. New carpet was installed during the summer of 1995. In June 1995 the preschool received notification of its national accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
During the 1995-96 school year, using finances from the capital replacement fund, the old individual heating units were replaced with a gas central heating system and included a gas hot water heater. During the summer of 1996 new shelves were added in the original resource room and the pantry, and the bathroom sinks were lowered for easier use by the children. The original kitchen stove was replaced in June 1997. Other accomplishments in the 1997-98 school year included replacing the lawn care storage shed and the office window, building picture file storage shelves behind the mail box shelves, adding a new toddler feel board and magnetic board, and acquiring aquariums for a salamander, fish, hermit crabs, and frogs. Re-accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children was accomplished in the spring of 1998. Projects for summer 1998 were painting the interior, replacing the kitchen window, replacing exterior doors with metal ones, patching the roof, and sealing the parking lot.
The 1998-99 school year was a special one for us. Former preschooler David Lambo approached us about using his Eagle Scout project to serve his former preschool! He spent the entire year consulting with us, designing plans, and raising funds. In the summer 1999 David built the covered playhouse over the sandbox, two outdoor benches, and four outdoor planters. We are proud of the excellent work that he accomplished as well as his spirit of giving back to his community. Also in the fall of 1998 Judi Clark joined Cecile to share the teaching load. Judi taught the single day classes, and Cecile continued to teach the multiday classes and serve as director of the program.
At the end of the 1998-99 school year, the graduating Pre-K class surprised the preschool with a $700 challenge gift to be used toward remodeling to accommodate a larger resource room and curriculum storage area. An ad hoc committee was formed to develop a plan pursuant to the intent of the gift. During the 1999-00 school year, members and alums donated approximately $45,000 to fund the 20’ x 20’ addition to the building. The fall of 1999 we hired Beth Edwards to share the single day classes teaching load with Judi.
In the summer of 2001 our new building addition was completed, including a concrete ramp from the garage to the bike path and memory tiles from those who contributed $50 or more to the construction fund. The school year of 2001-02 found us moving in to our expansive new space and planning effective storage. Curriculum teams have been especially appreciative of the well-designed workspace. During the year we also began to remodel our paint and water table storage areas. Major projects for the summer of 2002 included remodeling the garage storage to be in keeping with our other effective storage areas and painting the interior. Also, our director, Dr. Cecile Mielenz, published Mentor Manager, Mentor Parent: How to Develop Responsible People and Build Successful Relationships at Work and at Home, which became the textbook for our Pre-K classes.
During the 2002-03 school year our guinea pig, Teddy, died. The children decorated his empty cage, and we made a book from their letters and art. Our long-time dream to offer not one but two infant classes became a reality, although we faced enrollment challenges. As a result, a Shopping Extravaganza was held in the spring of 2003 to supplement our budget. As part of this event, a cookbook was developed and additional memory tiles were sold to complete the installation in the resource room and to begin adding tiles to the upper room. A highlight of the year was again receiving reaccreditation of our program by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The Pre-K graduating class of 2004 gave the preschool a new dishwasher, for which we are most appreciative.
Enrollment, particularly in the two infant classes, continued to challenge us during the 2004-05 school year. As we began to look at ways to better meet the needs of our families, we implemented the Job Options Program (JOP). We recognized that there are families who wish to be part of our preschool community but are unable to hold a preschool job for a variety of reasons. The decision was made to contract for the jobs previously performed by the following committees: lawn and grounds care, facility management, and inventory and purchasing. These 15 jobs became available for the JOP, allowing families to help fund the cost of outsourcing these jobs rather than doing the work themselves. We also realized that sibling childcare is an issue for some families who would like to participate in our program, resulting in the implementation of Childcare Connections (CC). Through the informal, unofficial CC program, parents can look to our website to locate other parents who may be able to help meet their childcare needs.
In the spring of 2005, the preschool planted a magnolia tree in the front lawn in memory of Cecile’s mother, Elia Boudreaux Culp, who passed away September 4, 2004. The outgoing Pre-K class gave the preschool a new printer/fax machine.
During 2005-06 we were notified by Snohomish County PUD that the bill for street lighting would now be pro-rated among the neighborhood. The fact that we would no longer be paying the entire street lighting fee gave us needed flexibility in our budget. In addition, the second year of having a marketing team began to generate greater enrollment in our infant classes. The Job Options Program that we had piloted was overwhelmingly successful, so it was expanded to encompass 20 former preschool jobs. Plans were made to eliminate the multi-day outdoor play teams and hire an Outdoor Curriculum Specialist to provide continuity throughout all the multi-day outdoor play sessions. Dr. Christine Hurley-Geffner became our first Outdoor Curriculum Specialist. Our copy machine was paid off in January 2006, and the Pre-K graduating class of 2005-06 gave the preschool a new red water table.
At the end of the 2006-07 school year, we embarked on an extreme makeover as a result of several contributing factors. The graduating Pre-K class gave us the long-awaited open shelving for our unit blocks along with shelving and bins for block accessories, so we knew that our block area would be changing. Also, Windermere Realty in Woodinville selected our preschool for their Community Service Day project in early June. Realizing that we could take care of some projects that had not been completed in several years, an ad hoc committee met to choose new carpet and interior paint colors. We also identified a number of outdoor projects that the Windermere team was able to complete, including pressure washing the Big Toy, painting the exterior, cleaning the roof, staining the fence, and removing some of the old carpet. Meanwhile at the end of the school year we discovered water in three walls in the bathroom area. Knowing we would have to open those walls and potentially replace them, the ad hoc committee looked at old plans and brainstormed new ideas about the best possible use of the bathroom space. Ultimately, we tore out the old bathrooms, pantry, ceiling, and kitchen and reconfigured the original part of our building. We added new carpet throughout the building and painted the interior. Many members and alumni stepped forward and contributed time and effort, financial resources, and professional expertise. The completed remodel cost approximately $41,500, including the donated professional time. Once again, the families in our preschool community worked together to provide a beautiful, safe, and healthy environment for our children and ourselves.
Also at the end of the 2006-07 school year Judi Clark retired, and Beth Edwards took over teaching all of the single day classes. Judi will be remembered as the first teacher added to create a staff of more than one!
The 2007-08 school year was an enjoyable one due to our “new” facility, and we continued improvements by adding additional storage units in the former pantry area. The graduating Pre-K class donated funds for an art storage unit, including an art sink, adjacent to the creative arts area. This was a busy year, as we also completed the reinvented and quite comprehensive accreditation process through the National Association for the Education of Young Children. After many hours of work and an assessment visit by NAEYC, the preschool was awarded accreditation with very high marks for another five years. During this school year the Job Options Program (JOP) was expanded to allow members of the infant classes to be exempt from preschool jobs, regardless of other classes in which they might be enrolled. At the end of the year, Dr. Christine Hurley-Geffner retired as our Outdoor Curriculum Specialist. Christine will be remembered for her warm and caring manner and her devotion to the children.
One of the highlights of the 2008-09 school year was an excellent marketing program which resulted in strong enrollment and limited openings. Jodi Spitalli joined our teaching staff as Outdoor Curriculum Specialist. We re-asphalted the parking lot in the summer of 2008, and in the summer of 2009 we were again selected by Windermere Realty as their Community Service Day project. Among the tasks that local realtors accomplished was removal of the cracked concrete pad on the playground. A professional arborist later removed the tree which had caused the breakage. The staff began consulting with several landscape architects and playground designers regarding a possible re-design of our outdoor play space. Over the summer the staff also engaged in extensive assessment training in anticipation of implementing a comprehensive assessment program during the 2009-10 school year. The graduating Pre-K class gifted the preschool with a new play kitchen for the Housekeeping (Hk) area as well as with five new children’s tables for the upper preschool room.
Re-design of the playground became a focus of the 2009-10 school year, with an ad hoc committee ultimately hiring Leon Smith of Portland, Oregon, to create a master plan. The graduating Pre-K class gave us new windows along the east wall of the upper preschool room, which greatly enhanced the look of the classroom. The facility was further upgraded with the installation of a new roof with 30-year shingles in August 2010.
During 2009-10 the board and staff undertook an expansion of our mission statement to include a vision and philosophy statement as well as measurable goals for children, parents, community, and program operation. Mary Jane Pioli, a former preschool parent and executive coach, had worked with the board to develop our mission statement and returned to guide the board and staff through this process. We are grateful to Mary Jane and many other alumni for their continued contributions to our program. Also in 2009-10, after several years of deliberation, the membership voted to retire the old gingerbread logo and adopt a new logo reflecting a diversity of families.
Throughout the 2010-11 school year we continued our work with Leon Smith to design and develop our playground into a more natural playspace. An ad hoc committee coordinated plans and tasks to be completed. During the school year we created a children’s garden, including a planting bed for pumpkins. We established the position of cooking coordinator to devise cooking experiences for the multiday classes using produce that children harvested from the garden. Throughout the summer of 2011 several work days were held to remove the old Big Toy structure, develop the “big hill” with a double slide and tunnel, make and install stepping stones in the traffic circle, and enhance the environment with native plants. We worked with contractors to extend and resurface the bike path, build a new fence along the parking lot and in front of the building, install plumbing so that water access is available in the garden and near the sand box, install hammock swings, and develop plans for a water feature near the playhouse/sand box. We appreciate the cash gift from the graduating Pre-K class that was designated to help with the development of the playground.
The 2011-12 school year saw new copy machine as well as the completed implementation of our new logo on signs, brochures, website, and letterhead. The ad hoc long-range planning committee developed a comprehensive capital replacement plan and also arranged for an insurance review in the spring. We contracted with a landscaping company so that we could maintain the beautiful native plants that had become part of our playspace. The children’s garden grew bountifully, and the produce that the children harvested was used in our daily cooking experiences in the multiday classes. The graduating Pre-K class gave us a cash gift to go toward the purchase of a greenhouse to further extend gardening experiences for the children.
In the summer of 2012 we completed not only the greenhouse but also other requirements to attain certification as a Nature Explore outdoor classroom. These included a nature art table in the greenhouse, a designated digging area, a deck for block building, an entry feature for the outdoors, a music and movement area, and outdoor signage. Using capital replacement funds, we also replaced the windows in the lower classroom and the remaining original window in the resource room. We replaced the preschool key system with key pads on the front, resource room, and outdoor classroom exterior doors.
During the 2012-13 school year we achieved not only Nature Explore certification but also went through the extensive re-accreditation process of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The faucets on the three children’s sinks were replaced with electronic sensor faucets. Our snack dishes, glasses, and pitchers were upgraded to heavy-duty glass, and were enhanced by the addition of esthetically pleasing wood snack trays. Multiday classes began to use centerpieces for snack tables to further connect the children’s snack experiences to the garden. A generous family donated a writing desk for the upper classroom, and the graduating Pre-K class gave us matching shelves. The old blue shelves that had been in the upper classroom for decades were now history. The graduating Pre-K class also gave us a new washer/dryer, and we used capital replacement funds to extend the cabinet to accommodate our new machine. In the spring we used additional capital replacement funds to replace the gutters on the building and move downspouts to accommodate future construction of a covered area. Windermere Realty of Woodinville also selected our preschool for their Community Service Day 2013; they stained outdoor wood surfaces, dug a bed for the toddler garden, and divided lariope and planted additional thyme in the labyrinth. We are grateful for their continued help and involvement in our program. The 2012-13 year was a busy one with full enrollment and minimal turnover.
The 2013-14 school year brought two major changes that had been in process for some time. Our registration system was transferred to a totally online process requiring payment by credit card. This new system has resulted in time savings for a number of our job holders and has also provided a means for paying tuition by credit card. The other major change was the implementation of a redesigned website. The preschool newsletter, which had been decreasing in readership, was replaced by a blog as part of the website. Other accomplishments included installation of new gutters, the production of the first Children’s Garden cookbook by the multiday classes, the establishment of the Toddler Garden, and the development of a proposal to add a 1-Day Enrichment class (1-Day E). The graduating Pre-K class purchased all new wooden chairs for the classrooms and also bought the water pump to be installed as part of an outdoor water feature designed by former preschooler Riley Bernhardt, as his Eagle Scout project. At the end of the year we said good-bye to Outdoor Curriculum Specialist Jodi Spitalli as she moved to Orcas Island. Jodi will be remembered for her leadership in the certification process with Nature Explore.
In the 2014-15 school year, Riley worked with the director to continue detailed plans for the water feature. Carrie Culp and Trevor Daley of Urban Oasis Design and Construction donated their time to assist with technical aspects of this extensive project. In the summer of 2015 the water feature was finally completed after many months of planning and construction! The graduating 2015 Pre-K class gave a cash gift to go toward a climbing wall on the playground. We hired Leon Smith to plan and direct the building of the wall by volunteers one weekend in July. Other accomplishments in the 2014-15 school year included using capital replacement funds to purchase a new furnace in the fall, replacement of the exterior door by the creative arts area, cleaning the roof, and hiring Tami Cobb as our new Outdoor Curriculum Specialist.
Highlights of the 2015-16 school year included drafting of a lock-down policy by the board, hiring of a website manager, and the installation of a new phone system to replace our 15-year-old system. At the end of the school year, parent educator Beth Edwards retired. Beth will be remembered, among many other things, for working with families to create stepping stones for the playground. This year we added a stepping stone path that leads from the bike path to the Toddler Garden. The graduating Pre-K class presented the preschool with a designated climbing tree, which will be ready for climbing in about five years. We are grateful for their gift and look forward to new generations of children who will have the experience of climbing a tree!
In 2016-17 we hired outgoing chair Susan Carroll to join our teaching staff with responsibility for the Prenatal-Infant, Toddler AM, and 1 Day classes. Tami added to her Outdoor Curriculum Specialist responsibilities the Parent Educator position for the Pre-Toddler and Toddler PM classes The preschool purchased a new copy machine, and the Pre-K class gifted us with an electrical panel which was very much needed to replace the failing panel from 1982. At the end of the school year, Tami retired from the preschool; she will be remembered as a true team player, always willing to contribute and to do what was needed. Also, Dr. Cecile Mielenz retired from teaching the multiday classes after 35 years. As a teacher, she will be remembered for her love of the children and their development through the curriculum that she designed. Cecile received the Outstanding National Educator award from the Bureau of Education and Research for teaching her philosophy and curriculum (along with her sidekick, Harry the Hedgehog) to thousands of preschool and kindergarten teachers throughout the United States and Canada over the years.
Cecile continued as director in 2017-18, and Amy Peters was hired to teach the multiday classes. Our staff grew to five people, adding Maggie Homer to teach the Toddler PM class and Kelly Petersen to take over the Outdoor Curriculum Specialist position. The staff worked closely together through the NAEYC reaccreditation process. During this school year we also replaced the entire wood fence around the property and installed outdoor lighting to enable the Toddler PM class to enjoy outdoor play during the winter months. The Bihary family gifted us with a new stove, and the 3 Day and Pre-K classes joined together to purchase an outdoor marimba.
The highlight of the 2018-19 school year was the celebration of our 50th birthday in January, accompanied by a number of Spirit Week events. A birthday party was held as part of our winter parent meeting, and nearly 30 alumni joined us to celebrate. A family birthday party on a Saturday morning included the recognition of the oldest WFP graduate that we could locate: Justin Donoghue, who graduated Pre-K in 1982! Our staff of five continued to plan together for the future, with substitute teacher Dr. Alisha Crawley-Davis taking over the multiday classes from Amy Peters. Amy will be remembered for her calm manner and high but achievable goals.
The school year 2019-20 saw big changes and challenges for the preschool. We welcomed back Jodi Spitalli, who re-joined our staff as the Parent Educator for the multiday classes. In the fall we found it necessary to replace our dishwasher, printer, vacuum, and dustbuster. In early March the CoVid-19 pandemic was well underway, and our staff quickly transitioned to remote learning. Although we missed being together in the preschool building, the staff did an amazing job of providing parent education and enriched activities and engagement for children via their computers! Earlier in the year, Dr. Cecile Mielenz had announced her retirement as director after 38 years. Parent Educator Susan Carroll was hired to become the new director as of July 1, 2020. Despite the Coronavirus and not physically being together in preschool, Cecile and Susan worked closely together for a seamless transition into a new era for Woodinville Family Preschool.
From February 1982 through June 2020, Cecile guided and developed the preschool classes and program with a vision of excellence, developmental appropriateness, and sense of community. To reach more families, she was instrumental in adding two infant classes and an evening toddler class. She saw the value in accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and we were one of the few preschools in Washington to pursue early accreditation. Under her leadership, four major remodels grew the facility from what is now the upstairs classroom to the beautiful building that we enjoy today; the outdoor space grew through two major renovations to become the current peaceful grounds and gardens. Cecile will be remembered for her calm guidance of children as they built friendships, learned kindness and compassion for others, and developed creativity and knowledge of the world around them. She will be remembered for her insightful influence on the parenting practices of hundreds of families. Perhaps most of all, Cecile will be remembered for lovingly giving so much of herself through her dedication to Woodinville Family Preschool.