Oakland, CA – On August 13th Storybrook Preschool welcomed parents and tots into their new location on a cul-de-sac in East Oakland. The opening represents a big step forward for Storybrook owner/operators Johanna Montagne and Olivia Couch, who founded their school serving 12 children in Olivia’s home in August 2016. Johanna and Olivia agree that the new, expanded location may not have become a reality had it not been for the tireless work of Oakland City Council District 4 candidate, Nayeli Maxson.
Johanna and Olivia are keenly aware of the childcare crisis in Oakland. In 2014, there were 11,192 slots available in preschools for the 15,908 children ages 3-5: 30% of children went unserved. Even more stark, of the 10,734 preschool-aged children eligible for subsidized preschool, only 4,398 slots were available: 59% of low-income children were unserved. The Highland Park neighborhood where Storybrook operates is no exception to this rule.
Maxson first learned about Storybrook while searching for the right preschool for her first child. Soon after, Maxson became the Executive Director of Alliance for Community Development, a nonprofit that works to increase access to capital for underrepresented entrepreneurs including women, people of color, and veterans. Johanna described their first business navigation meeting with Maxson as “A beacon of hope. All of a sudden, we had access to someone who could walk us through our business goals, and who could connect us with the people and resources that we needed to achieve those goals.”
Nayeli Maxson Helped Guide Storybrook Through The City Of Oakland’s Bureaucracy
The expansion was not without hurdles. When it came to navigating zoning laws, it took both the expertise and persistence that Maxson brought to the table to keep things moving. After providing the City of Oakland with a traffic plan early on, the entrepreneurs learned that what they provided was not sufficient. Just 10 days before they were set to open, the City informed them that their plan required additional review by a traffic expert before they could open their doors. After identifying an expert who signed off on their plan, once again, their plan was denied. Maxson stepped in, and was able to work with the city planning office to move forward. She explained the urgency and found a compromise. The traffic plan was approved, and Storybrook opened on time.
Maxson connected the entrepreneurs with other resources, including an architect, an accountant, and a lawyer. Today, Storybrook is thrilled to provide early childhood education to up to 36 children each day. The preschool employs 11 staff members, 6 of whom were hired with the expansion.
When asked why they are supporting Nayeli for Oakland City Council, Johanna had this to say “When Nayeli approaches people, she finds common ground. It’s about solving the problem.” Olivia added “She gave us the confidence that we needed. Because of her knowledge and expertise, we knew we could trust her.
Couch and Montagne in front of one of the play structures at their new East Oakland location
By Alison Grady: [email protected]