The names of 16 day care owners ordered to close their centers for good are now posted on the Louisiana Department of Education’s website following last week’s death of a toddler at an unlicensed day care in Baton Rouge.
More names will be added to the blacklist as the department combs through older records, John White, state superintendent of education, said at a news conference Thursday.
One name is Shelia Newman, whose day care, Shelia’s Learning Academy and Daycare, was closed by a court order issued Sept. 15. That order is linked to her name on the website, along with the affidavit where she pledged not to operate a similar day care again.
Newman closed her center on the outskirts of Baker, only to quietly reopen for business 7 miles south at 6345 Prescott Road, across the street from her home. Her unlicensed business was not discovered until June 5, when 22-month-old Angel Green died soon after being left unattended in a sweltering day care van.
Newman, 47, was released Wednesday from East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on $75,000 bail.
A cousin of Angel’s mother, Joy Green, told The Advocate on Tuesday that no one told Green the Prescott Road day care was operating illegally.
White said he talked to the mother Wednesday.
“It was an extremely sobering conversation about an awful event,” he said.
He said he came away persuaded his office could do more to help other families not make the same choice.
All 16 blacklisted names have in the past five years received court orders to close. The list does not at present include centers that received notices revoking their licenses but whose cases never reached court or whose cases remain on appeal, state officials acknowledged.
In addition to Newman, the blacklist names four other day care center owners in the Baton Rouge metro area: Stacia Barton, My Lil Sunshine Daycare; Yvette Imbraguglio, an unnamed day care; Martha Jackson, Martha’s Childcare; and Michelle Lavergne, Leaps & Bounds Sports Center.
White said his office has sent letters to sheriffs in the 10 parishes where the blacklisted day cares operated, asking them to check and make sure these individuals are not operating illegal day care centers. He also urged members of the public who see something amiss to call a hotline for the department’s day care licensing division, (877) 453-2721.
White said the new blacklist will be included in proposed new licensing regulations for early childhood centers to be considered Tuesday by a committee of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The state school superintendent defended past enforcement actions of state day care monitors against Newman.
“State regulators did their job appropriately in every instance,” he said. “That does not mean there aren’t things we can do to be more vigilant.”
The Department of Education in October took over the responsibility of overseeing the state’s day cares from another state agency, the Department of Children and Family Services. DCFS handled the enforcement actions against Newman.
White’s office on Thursday released an updated timeline of the enforcement actions DCFS took against Newman. That timeline makes clear that Newman had operated illegally before for several weeks last summer.
On June 27, 2014, an administrative law judge upheld the revocation of Newman’s license, a decision that should have prompted her to close her doors. Three weeks later, on July 15, inspectors visited her center and found it was illegally operating, with 18 children present.
Still operating illegally, DCFS finally went to state district court in Baton Rouge to get the court to close Newman’s day care. Judge Tim Kelley did just that in his Sept. 15 order.
Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.