Cooks Hill Child Care Center to Close for Two Weeks After Staff Walkout

Turmoil: Families, Staff Demanding Answers as to Why Beloved Director Was Fired on Monday 

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When parents brought their children to Cooks Hill Community Childcare Center Tuesday morning, they were expecting a routine drop-off. They weren’t expecting to learn that the day before, the center's director had been fired and roughly half of the center’s staff had quit. 

Some families were turned away that day due to the staffing shortage. Rumors that untrained volunteers from the church were working in the child care center due to the staffing shortage led parents to report the center to the state licensor’s office, and under their advice, the church announced Thursday that it is closing the child care center for two weeks starting Sept. 27 to hire and train new staff. 

As of Thursday afternoon, roughly 10 of the center’s 80 enrolled children had been pulled from the program. 

“Parents right now are freaking out. They’re pulling their children, they’re trying to find alternative care, they don’t feel comfortable having their children there. It’s not a safe environment. It’s just gotten really, really bad,” said Cheyney Jones, a former first-grade teacher at the child care center. 

Jones was among the group of employees who quit Monday evening following an emergency staff meeting where church administration informed them that Director Jessica King, who had been a member of the church for over 10 years, had been fired that morning. 

“After I spoke up for Jessica, many of us employees said that we would not stay at this daycare without her and it was wrong, so we all walked out,” Jones said. 

And despite repeatedly asking Cooks Hill Pastor Emily Faley, the church administration leadership board and daycare board for answers as to why the director was fired, staff and families have yet to receive any clear answers.

The closest they got to an explanation was a letter handed out to families Tuesday evening announcing the daycare was temporarily reducing its hours and claiming the staffing shortage was due to “the nature of the recent controversial mandate by Inslee for vaccines in child care centers.” 

Staff say that claim was completely false. 

“Our office staff are vaccinated. Over half of our employees are vaccinated or have their exemptions. So I mean, she (Faley) is just lying to parents and we want answers,” said Jones. 

A large group of families and former staff held a rally outside the church during a meeting between the church and daycare boards Wednesday evening to show their support for King and to get answers from board members as to why King was fired. 

They waited outside in the rain for the entirety of the four-and-a-half-hour meeting. But when board members finally dispersed around 9:30 p.m., they told the rally members that they could not speak publicly on the matter, and left. 

The church posted a second letter to families in a private Facebook group for Cooks Hill families on Thursday morning informing parents that the church has “had to let our daycare director go” and stating “I know many of you have questions, but we keep all employee matters confidential.” 

Church administration echoed that message in an official statement to The Chronicle, reading: “The Administrative Leadership Board made the decision to end her employment for cause, the church declines to comment publicly on the details of internal personnel issues.” 

Not even King was given a reason why she was let go. 

Like all U.S. states except Montana, Washington is an at-will employment state, meaning employers can legally fire an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all, so long as they are not violating employee protection laws. 

But if an employee submits a written request for a reason why they were let go, employers are required to provide a written statement within 10 days of the request.

King has submitted a request and is awaiting a response, primarily so she has something to tell future employers. 

“A lot of people just felt confused and hurt, and the fact that there were no answers, it leaves them in a space to be scared and fear does a lot to someone. And our family is just trying to pick up the pieces and move on, as hard as it is,” said King. 

Whatever the reason for King’s firing, families and staff are frustrated with how Cooks Hill has handled the situation, Jones said, adding that she and others felt like they were “blindsided” by Faley and the church administration — especially after learning that Cooks Hill has already hired a replacement director, who will be introduced to families “soon,” according to the Facebook post. 

“She (Faley) just didn’t go about any of it in the correct manner. You notify parents of these things. They have to go to work.”

Cooks Hill has stated it will refund enrolled families for the two weeks the child care center is closed. And if new teacher hires can get through their background checks and training before the planned Oct. 11 reopening date, the church plans to reopen the child care center early. 

“We were not planning on closing temporarily and we were not expecting the response with teachers resigning,” said Faley and the church administration in the Facebook post.

“This is not the path we would have chosen, as we are hoping to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible so we can move forward without any disruption.”

Comments

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Citizen Kane

“We were not planning on closing temporarily and we were not expecting the response with teachers resigning,” said Faley and the church administration in the Facebook post.

“This is not the path we would have chosen, as we are hoping to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible so we can move forward without any disruption.”

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

YOU CHOSE THE PATH. Nobody else. YOU. You failed, you're lying. You should resign now.

Why is this incompetent dishonest person in charge of anything?

Friday, September 24
Upset Mom

They gave us parents a 15 minute notice that they where only taking some kids on Wednesday. Lots of parents did not get the notice and showed up being told sorry we can't take your child. My kids have been going 3+ years and this have never happened. Emily you did this to us families. No one else. Is the church going to pay us for having to take 2 weeks off work. We can't just find a daycare that will taken for 2 weeks because you messed up. Emily you don't respond to parents emails or calls. You are hiding. Shame on you.

Friday, September 24
JamesC377

What? Really? Religious people lying??? Laughable. Religion has been the greatest scam on the planet.

Friday, September 24
Pumpernickel

Lies, Lies, your church has lies to us parents! Jessica was a great director and made everyone feel welcome and she had our kids best interests at heart! The pastor should resigned effective immediately!!!

Saturday, September 25
Jesus was Melaoto

Hey Parents! Raise your own kids. Moms need to stay home and raise the kids while Dad is at work. Dads! Get 2 jobs if you have too. Or downsize and do without less stuff. Most women's egos won't let them do that though. The thought of raising their own kids is terrifying. Sad.

Saturday, September 25
@Jjamesc377

I'm a Christian but your statements do not offend me. Because you are correct. Most organized "religious" people are only there to use their organizations as tax shields and then use their "faith" as a liability shield for their sinful lives. They also use it to pass judgement on fellow man because of their perceived moral high ground. Only God can judge.

Saturday, September 25
Parent

@Jesus was Melaoto

I would love to stay home. But but due to my husband's passing I now have to work. So if you would like to send me your paychecks so I could stay home and raise my kids I would be more than happy to do that let me know when I'll give you my address. If I didn't go to work and I stayed home and took care of my kids you would tell me to get off of state assistance and get a job. So you should probably think about that.

Saturday, September 25
youngcontrarian

Wow. @jesuswasa? you've got to be kidding. Are you Taliban or just a stain on some dirty underwear? You must love The King Misogynist Rapist Sexist One Term Loser. Pathetic.

Sunday, September 26
Thalia Melpomene

@Maleatto Your theory only serves to entrap unspecting women who have to put up with your going out screwing the younger models because your old hag is always tired. Then when she divorces you and wants you to support all of them, you moan and cry. Or----- you suddenly develp great interest in the little ones, encouraging her to go do her thing and then yank the chain ON HER to pay support.

Or maybe in your case, you don't, and just need someone who has to depend on you so you won't be alone?? Whoever Jesus was, I think you put words in his mouth.

Sunday, September 26
Lcpud1

What a disgrace...face it, Covid is real and your Bible thumping and praying hands aren't going to fix or save a thing. Why don't the childcare center separate from the "church" and go it on its own. Much better plan if you ask any rational citizen.

Monday, September 27
Chicken Dude Ranch

I'm just here for the comments. This is comic gold.

Tuesday, September 28
Chicken Dude Ranch

And good luck "Parent". With covid raging, gen-x and boomers running things now, I can imagine it being hard to find resources to rock-it solo. You are a hero to those kids.

Tuesday, September 28