Lightbridge Academy, a 35-unit early education and child care franchise brand throughout the Mid-Atlantic with an additional 70 locations in development, is not a typical child care. The company’s founder and CEO Guy Falzarano has strived from the brand’s inception 20 years ago to set the company up to be different, to be better, to not only a high quality of care and education for children but also offer solutions for busy working parents.
One of the guiding lights for Lightbridge Academy, Falzarano says, is always focusing on the fact that that we are in the trust business. It goes without saying that a child is the parent’s utmost priority. When it comes to keeping a child safe, having on demand connection to them, and providing parents with comprehensive updates – a parent wants what’s best for their family. And that’s where Lightbridge Academy steps in.
Technology is integrated throughout every Lightbridge Academy center, and not just on the office computers, but in each classroom so that parents, educators and franchisees can all stay connected and share information with ease.
When you first enter a Lightbridge Academy, there is a coded entry system – the most advanced system in the child care industry. The biometric system will recognize the fingerprints of authorized parents and caregivers allowed to pick up a child, and all unfamiliar visitors must show a picture ID before entering the building. Lightbridge Academy is embraced by parents for being a safe and secure environment, so this technology is an important barrier to entry to provide parents with peace of mind.
Each classroom is also set up with video monitoring. Lightbridge Academy uses this tool to develop staff, manage classrooms and build trusting relationships with all families. Center directors observe classroom activity, allowing them to mentor teachers, reinforce policies and procedures and recognize exceptional classroom management. The external viewing capabilities are known as the ParentView® Internet Monitoring System. Parents and even grandparents are welcome to log in and view a child’s classroom at any time, giving them a peek into their child or grandchild’s day.
“In 1998, when I first told people I wanted to install cameras into the classrooms, they looked at me and said, ‘What? Are you crazy?’” Falzarano said. “But, quite honestly, since we are in the trust business, why wouldn’t you want to provide that transparency to parents? They can’t just leave work and drop-in whenever they want. We are here to help make working parents’ lives less stressful, and the cameras are also used for our internal support and training, so it’s a win-win.”
And the cameras are also used as a tool to help alleviate separation anxiety… for parents. It’s hard to leave a child at the center for the first time – excruciatingly hard, tears on both the parent and child’s faces hard – but the cameras can be used to help a parent feel connected and comfortable about leaving their child in our care while they’re at work.
“Worried parents sit in a director’s office and watch what is going on in the classroom,” Falzarano said. “The director can watch the video with the parent and explain exactly what’s going on. Parents build their confidence in our team when they see first-hand how their child is being comforted and acclimated to the new classroom. It is a real benefit of having the classrooms equipped with cameras. When the parent leaves and logs in from their phone or computer, they can see that their little one is doing well and it allows them to go to work with peace of mind.”
Another way that Lightbridge Academy keeps parents in the know is with a Parent eCommunication app. Throughout the day, parents receive ongoing updates about their child including important classroom announcements, reminders, photos, videos and daily reports including information on what their child ate, how they slept and potty details.
“Parents tell us how helpful these updates are not just for day-to-day details, but also at a doctor visits to help recap trends and behavior the child is portraying,” said Gigi Schweikert, Lightbridge Academy President and COO. “Parents are always on the run from work to pick-up, to getting an older child to soccer or dance. We know how crucial it is to provide a thorough report and be a parent’s eyes and ears while they’re at the office or even if a business trip takes them around the world.”
Especially convenient is that these updates and developmental progress is all stored on electronically. During parent-teacher conferences, the teacher can simply pull up the notes, photos and videos to reference in their discussion with parents. Having this on an encrypted and secure platform also provides parents with confidence that their child’s data is safe, while also giving franchisees a competitive edge in the marketplace.
“Technology not only makes life easier at our centers, but it is what today’s parents expect. They use it to manage and communicate at work and in their personal lives. Why should it be any different with the child care they have selected? It demonstrates to parents, teachers and the community that we understand their needs and have invested in the systems and processes necessary for us to create meaningful relationships. We know and respect that they are entrusting us with their precious child, their everything,” Falzarano said. This trust demands that we operate at a higher level.