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Parents rally after Northwest Child Development Center board fires executive director

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(Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Jaqueline Wiggins, who was fired from her post as executive director of the Northwest Child Development Center Wednesday, rallies parents outside the Roanoke center Thursday morning. Parents gathered to support Wiggins just hours after they showed up to learn the center would not open to care for their children.

"It ain't no way seven directors can be wrong," Wiggins said.

The center's board of directors called a meeting late Wednesday and fired her, just four months into the job. Wiggins said the firing follows her submission of her monthly report in which she requested that the board step down so that the center could be successful, she said. She was given a two page letter rebutting her accusations of inappropriate or unjust practices. "We feel you have portrayed the center and the board in a negative light," it read. "If the board is as bad as you portray it to be, then we can only surmise that hiring you was also a mistake," the letter continued.

"I am not surprised that they have fired me," she said. "I am surprised though that within six years I am the seventh executive director who has been fired. That should have raised a red flag in this community long before I got here to inherit this situation."

It's a situation Wiggins calls deplorable and grossly negligent, sparked by the loss of $100,000 in funding by the United Way.

"The board has not shown financial stability of Northwest Child Development Center but instead gross negligence," she said.

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WSLS 10 obtained a number of documents including one from the United Way to Northwest board chairman Derrick Willis, dated January 30, 2015. It shows United Way's concern about the child care center's finances and internal controls and explained the agency was withholding funding until the matters were resolved. "While United Way provides about half of the revenue for your childcare program, our concerns about your financial situation and internal controls have led us to the decision to withhold all funding payouts to NWCDC until these matters are resolved," it read.

WSLS 10 also obtained a memo from previous NWCDC executive director Gregory Cooper, dated January 22, 2015, reporting to the board that he'd lost trust in two board members, Willis and Haywood Dunlap. The memo outlines instances in which it states Willis wrote checks for thousands of dollars without the required two signatures to his own company for services.

At least three board members inside NWCDC Thursday refused to answer questions Thursday. None would talk about the allegations, its plan or whether parents were told the center would be shut down before they showed up to drop off their kids Thursday morning.

Parents standing outside among others holding signs calling for board members to "step down now," say there was no warning.

"I was just so stunned by the situation," said Shaquana Hayes as she held her infant daughter. "I have to be at work."

There was no indication bus drivers had notice either. A Roanoke City Public School bus pulled up to the center Thursday afternoon to drop of a handicapped child. The driver and an assistant on board said they had no idea the center was closed. They pulled off with the child.

Board members handed at least one employee who showed up a letter saying the center would close for good September 30th, citing its inability to survive without funding.

Two weeks ago, Wiggins stated the center received nearly $20,000 in donations from the community to avoid a September 11 shutdown. The money was a temporary fix to keep the center open, but more money needed to be raised to account for the $100,000 lost through grant money.

ROANOKE CHILD CARE CENTER RAISES MONEY TO AVOID FRIDAY SHUTDOWN

"The board definitely needs to have a heart and they need to consider stepping down for these children so that we can reconstruct this board funding and support will come in," Wiggins said.

Support the United Way confirms it would consider reinstating under Wiggins' leadership and if the current board steps down, said United Way CEO Afira DeVries.