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Zineb Mouhtam has been hired as the new director of the SSMU Daycare. ( Jack Neal / McGill Tribune)

A new direction for daycare at SSMU

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Following several months of searching, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has hired a new Daycare director. Zineb Mouhtam has been selected to fill the position, which has been vacant since May 2015, following the resignation of the previous director, Aline Karagioules.

The responsibilities of Daycare director have been allocated to SSMU executives, namely to President Kareem Ibrahim, posing certain difficulties. 

 “It’s not easy, there has been a lot of stuff that has built up, we’ve been getting penalties for various regulations that we haven’t been adhering to because no one is in the role to fulfill those responsibilities,” Ibrahim said. “But we are confident that we are in a better place than we have been.” 

According to Ibrahim, finding the right candidate to take over the role of director was a  challenging process.

“We spent all summer interviewing quite urgently because without [a] person in the role [of director], it was pretty bad news for the Daycare,” Ibrahim said. “We were pretty unsuccessful for a while because the position profile had changed. Previously all of the accounting for the Daycare was done by the SSMU, so our controller did it and the previous Daycare Director Aline, who was in the role for about a year, thought that it would be better to absorb those responsibilities and do it herself. Those responsibilities were never transferred back to SSMU so the role became much more difficult to attract candidates for.”

Despite these additions to the director’s profile, Mouhtam expressed her enthusiasm for taking over the role. 

“The nature of my job is diverse, [including] overall coordination and administration of the two child care licenses, management of financial and material resources: budget planning, financial statement analysis with the auditor, [and] human resources management,” Mouhtam wrote in an email to the Tribune. “With a certificate in Management of Care, and experience of over 18 years, I can tell you that early childhood represents for me a true vocation.” 

Mouhtam outlined her plans for the future of the Daycare in the coming months.

“My plans [are to] establish a quality educational program in a friendly and stimulating environment that enables children to acquire skills that will position them for success in school, working with my team to ensure quality of services for children at all levels, [and to] involve parents in the nursery,” she wrote.

Alexina Hicks, a student-parent and user of the SSMU Daycare service, commended the steps that Mouhtam has already taken to give greater recognition to the needs of the Parent Committee.

“She has made the effort to personally meet the Parent Committee and she has voiced her concern regarding the lack of parent meetings in the past due to no direction,” Hicks wrote in an email to the Tribune. “She’s open to integrating a cloth diaper service to the nursery and respects the educators’ various approaches. Ideally, when things settle down she aims to have a weekly newsletter emailed to all, to keep us in touch with happenings.” 

Vice-President (VP) of the Parent Committee Manuel Balàn explained that this academic year in particular has posed more problems for the Daycare than is typical.  

“The Daycare has a structure like no other daycare I have seen, in the sense that it is run by the SSMU, which changes president every year,” Balàn wrote in an email to the Tribune. “In normal times—when there is a person in SSMU in charge of the daycare and, most importantly, when there is a Daycare director in place—this doesn’t affect the normal running of the Daycare. Unfortunately this has not been the case the last year. 

The SSMU Daycare has seen high turnover in the position of director over the past year.  Karagioules left in May, 2015, with an interim director filling the role since then, until Ibrahim’s recent takeover of the director’s responsibilities.  Balàn noted that this has caused concern for some parents. 

“In the unstable context of the last year […] many parents have taken their kids out of the Daycare or are seriously considering doing so.”

According to Hicks, the future of the Daycare is likely to change as a result of Mouhram’s organized and progressive methodology. 

 “She does not seem to have a conservative approach to the way things can be run in the Daycare, but is also focused on the priorities established by the government—security, up-to-date paperwork,” Hicks wrote.

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