Tag Archives: vpk

Broward Children’s Museum Pricey Preschool Tuition Rivals Local Private High School Costs

The cost to attend the Young At Art Children’s Museum Preschool rivals tuition costs at Broward’s top private high schools. Established in 2012, the preschool caters to children between ages 3 and 4 years old.  The preschool was funded in part with a grant from the PNC Foundation. Since it offers VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) classes, it is likely Young At Art preschool receives other government funding.

Despite the private and government funding, Young At Art preschool tuition still tops out at $10,000 per year. According to the YAA website, VPK classes from 8:30am to 11:30am are free with a VPK voucher. In order to receive the voucher, families must qualify based upon income levels.

Without a VPK voucher, preschool classes from 8:30am to 3:30pm cost $7,500 per year. If a child needs to stay until 5pm, the cost rises to $10,000 per year. There is a non-refundable $150 dollar registration fee. Also, students MUST buy a $17 uniform shirt at the museum gift store.

By comparison, top local private high schools like St. Thomas Aquinas cost around $10,000 per year.

What do students at the Young At Art preschool get for $10,000 per year? Not much.

REDBROWARD obtained a power point presentation from created by YAA preschool director Gina Gates detailing the program. Gates presentation claims students get a “hands-on, minds-on approach to learning.” This includes “daily field trips into the museum.” Another part of the curriculum includes visits to the attached County library “for storytime and for the children to check out books.”

Gates states the preschool is licensed for 22 students with 2 full time teachers and 1 aide. She states 14 families are receiving VPK assistance. This means 8 families are paying thousands of dollars for museum fields trips and library visits.

Gates states Young At Art preschool revenue for the 2013-2014 school year was $144,775 dollars. She claims YAA will add another 22 student class for the 2014-2015 school year. Gates writes the projected preschool revenue would jump to $289,550 dollars for this year.

Gates concludes with a look to the future. She writes, “We are currently looking into the possibility of expanding our preschool program and using another one of classroom spaces as a preschool class. With such a demand we are confident that we can make this one of the top preschools in Broward County!”

If the YAA preschool is so successful, why does the museum need to rework its financial deal with the County for the third time? Why doesn’t the County open preschools at all library branches? Surely the School Board of Broward County would welcome the competition.

Commissioner Wants County To Take Control Of Museum & Preschool

As REDBROWARD reported, Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler wants County Administrator Bertha Henry to cease all negotiations with YAA chairman David Di Pietro and executive director Mindy Shrago.  At Tuesday’s commission meeting, Wexler wants to discuss the Broward County Cultural Division assuming control of the museum and preschool.

Last month, Commissioner Wexler asked Ms. Henry why Young At Art failed to submit a new proposal for financial relief. Was Young At Art “playing games” to avoid dealing with the term-limited Wexler. Some insiders wondered if chairman Di Pietro hoped to avoid the matter while his wife, Judge Nina Weatherly Di Pietro, is facing re-election.

Broward taxpayers deserve answers.

On Tuesday, Shrago and Di Pietro will have to answer to Lois Wexler and the rest of Broward County Commission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: an earlier version of this story was unclear about the presentation by YAA preschool director Gina Gates. The power point was created by Ms. Gates. REDBROWARD did not get this material from Ms. Gates. We apologize for any confusion.

Young At Art Director’s Salary Made Huge Jump After Broward Taxpayers Paid For New Museum

Young At Art (YAA) executive director Mindy Shrago took home a bigger paycheck after Broward taxpayers built a new home for her children’s museum in Davie. Despite YAA losing nearly $600,000 dollars in revenue over the last five years, Shrago continues to collect her six-figure salary. According to public records, Shrago has received big salary raises even while she desperately tried to restructure the Davie museum’s financial deal with Broward County. But Federal tax records show, Shrago’s first big jump in salary came after her new “Taj Mahal” opened in 2012.

A review of YAA tax forms dating as far back as 2005 show Mindy Shrago always collected a six-figure paycheck. In 2005 and 2006, Shrago took home $100,000 dollars from her non-profit organization. The 2007 Form 990 shows Shrago’s pay increased to $121, 153 dollars, reflecting a $21,153 raise. From 2008 to 2011, records show Mindy Shrago was paid $125,000 per year for running the museum.

In May 2012, YAA moved from a modest strip mall in Davie to a new building County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger called the “Taj Mahal.” Shrago convinced Broward County Commissioners to purchase land in Davie and build a fancy new home for the museum. In exchange, YAA was to pay the County $1 million dollars a year over eleven years.

One year later, when YAA failed to pay, the County agreed to spread the payments over thirty-one years.

Young at Art’s 2013 Federal IRS Form 990 shows Shrago received a $140,387 yearly salary. A $15,387 increase from the year before. Shrago received this hefty raise even while claiming YAA could not pay taxpayers.

Even though YAA was still in the middle of a serious financial crisis, the 2014 tax form shows Shrago received another sizable salary increase. Shrago was paid $152,407 for a fifty hour work week. This was a $12,020 increase for the executive director of an ailing institution funded by Broward taxapayers.

A year later, Shrago’s take home pay jumped to $157,828 dollars. While still seeking relief from the County, Shrago received a $5,421 raise.

It’s unclear if the YAA Board recommended these increases each year or whether they were part of Shrago’s contract.

One wonders if YAA chairman David Di Pietro has the courage to ask Mindy Shrago why she kept taking home more money even as revenues fell.