Melanie Casablanca is the Owner of Bright Village Early Education, in Salem, NH.
This spring, REDC sat down with Melanie Casablanca, owner of Bright Village Early Education located in Salem, NH. We discussed some of the issues surrounding the childcare industry in Southern NH.
REDC: What are some of the challenges facing the childcare industry?
Melanie: One of the biggest challenges we're currently facing as a childcare [facility] is a staffing shortage. It puts a constraint on the time I have to do administrative tasks [because I am also working] in the classroom. We have had to cut down on operation hours and increase our tuition rates.
REDC: What are the challenges for families trying to find or remain in a childcare facility?
Melanie: The challenges we're hearing from families are [the need for] flexibility, access to [stable] childcare, and costs. Flexibility is important for families and also our teachers.
REDC: Do you have advice for parents looking for childcare?
Melanie: Start early. There's [very limited] capacity [available at centers]. We have had to reduce our capacity. So, parents must start early.
REDC: Are you seeing impacts to children due the staffing shortages?
Melanie: The staff shortage has definitely affected the consistency in the classroom, which brings issues like trust issues for children, anxiety, not knowing who's going to be in the classroom or for how long. We have had to rearrange classrooms when we have teachers that are out for whatever reason, which has [created] some anxiety that was not there before.
REDC: What are some other observations you have made regarding the childcare industry and the local economy?
Melanie: I would say that families, now more than ever, play a very important role in staff retention. That's something I have seen here. The more connected that teachers can be to their families, the easier it is for us to build those relationships and retain the staff, and we cannot do this without family support. I think it's a time for us to unite and try to come up with solutions or ideas together. Of course, [connecting with families] has always been a thing in childcare, but with everything else that is happening, I think that being able to connect at a different level with families will be a great help for staff retention.
REDC: What changes have you made to retain staff?
Melanie: We have had to increase salaries significantly, which affects our families because we have had to increase tuition. That is the biggest incentive we have used to retain or to attract new teachers. The margin in the childcare industry is not a secret. It's not huge. We are counting on state [programs] to support the increase in payroll.
REDC's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)
This interview took place in March 2023 for the purpose of documenting first-hand perspectives on issues that present the largest obstacles to continued economic growth in our region. REDC's 2023 CEDS Update will be available for free electronically on our CEDS page in late June, 2023.
Part of this interview will be available to watch in a video on REDC's YouTube channel in late June, 2023.