Our History

Our History

In 1947, a group of members of the American Association of University Women expressed a desire for a cooperative nursery school in the San Mateo area, a school in which the mothers would be an integral part of their children’s first experience away from home. They presented their idea to James Tormey, then Director of Adult Education at the College of San Mateo. After obtaining financial aid from CSM Adult Education Department, the San Mateo Parents’ Nursery School was started at McArthur Barracks at Coyote Point. The first school year began in September 1948. Under the leadership of Carol Hardgrove, Director; Virginia Overhulser, Assistant Director; and Meta Kaufman, President the 17 families built equipment and made materials to be used in the school. Some of this equipment is still in use today!

From 1949 to 1955, the school continued to operate at Coyote Point with Gertrude Tipton Archibald as Director. In June of 1955 the school left Coyote Point Barracks and moved to the Chinese Baptist Church. Two years later, 1957, the school began holding classes in two cottages at Saint Andrews Church. This location was used for two years, during which time the school looked for a permanent location. While at Saint Andrews, Carol Hardgrove again assumed the Directorship.

In September of 1959, after some difficulty in finding a location and obtaining the necessary financial aid, our school broke ground for construction at the present site. A carefully accumulated building fund purchased the lot. The funds necessary to commence construction of the building were obtained by nursery school parents selling about $6500.00 worth of Promissory Notes at $25.00 per note to private individuals. The balance of the mortgage was financed by the San Mateo Branch of the Wells Fargo Bank. In addition, the Thompson Brothers, builders of the school, lent money for a second mortgage. They completely paid the last of the promissory notes and the second mortgage in 1965. While our school was being built, classes were held across the street in the playground at the San Mateo Boys Club and Shoreview Park. The move was made into our present building in January 1960. Marion Martinez Graham was President during these important proceedings. 

From 1962-1967, Dorothy Hills undertook Directorship of the school. Our happy association with the College of San Mateo’s Evening College continued with participating mothers enrolled in continuing g Child Development courses. From 1966-1968, parents of San Mateo Parents’ Nursery School initiated a program in conjunction with the San Mateo City Schools to racially integrate the community schools. This was called the Administrative Transfer Program, and our parents acted as hosts for minority students, welcoming the parents and students into neighborhood schools.

In 1967-1989, Joanne McMahon became the director of SMPNS. In the mid 1970s, many of our teachers, staff and parents recognized the need for child care among local college students and added our support to the community effort to raise the consciousness of the local college administrators’ awareness of this need. In the mid 1970s, Dorothy Hills visited (and observed) British Infant Schools. As a direct result of these observations, the San Mateo Parents’ Nursery School adopted the “Family Grouping System” and no longer segregated the students by age groups. To implement this new system, the barriers dividing classroom and playground areas were removed. This philosophy continues in our program to date.

From 1976 to 1978, the College of San Mateo found it increasingly difficult to maintain its affiliation with our school. Despite the diligent efforts of our parents and staff during this period, with the passage of Proposition 13 it became necessary in 1979 to become an independent, non-profit corporation.  As a result of this increased freedom in our operation, we were able to more fully serve the needs of the community. With the advent of the 1980s, an increasing number of families found both parents working outside the home. In response, our school opened its doors to a limited number of non co-op families. We also worked with funding and educational organizations, 4 C’s,  PACE and California State Preschool, to help finance the program and families. The school philosophy remained intact and parent education continued with the introduction of daily Brown Bag Lunch Discussions.

From 1989-2015, Tish Matulich held the position of Director/Teacher of SMPNS. The school continued to serve and support our diverse population of families with scholarships, parent education, social events, grants, and changes to curriculum including a daily classroom Story Time for children. To further accommodate families, in the early 1990s an extended care program in the mornings and afternoons was offered, changing our hours of operation to 7:45 am to 6:00 pm. We continued to offer a summer session, which was divided to accommodate the families with older children who are in schools with a year-round calendar. Physical improvements were made to the school including a new playground, front garden, front gates, bike/scooter storage, carpeting, paint, furniture, and shelving. Under Tish’s guidance and understanding of best practices in serving families of young children along with the SMPNS Board (made up of preschool parents) the preschool continued to lead, fundraise, and motivate the program. The program’s enrollment grew year after year. 

In 2015-2016, Dena Heinze was SMPNS Director/Teacher. More physical improvements to our building were made in the front of the school.

From August 2016-Jan 2018 Renee Padgett held the Director/Teacher position. Renee’s teaching experience and musicianship continued to support singing, dancing, and play in our program.

In Jan 2018-currently, Mie Nakamura is the Director/Teacher of SMPNS. Mie’s devotion for teaching young children, her dedication to working with families and her ability to problem solve successfully got SMPNS to 2023 and we are still going.  A new playground was installed in summer 2018 funded by a generous donation to our program.

When the Covid Epidemic closed the San Mateo County Schools on March 13, 2020 (with no idea about how long they will remain closed) Mie took action and within days SMPNS had scheduled daily on-line ZOOM Story Times hosted by our teachers. Mie, the SMPNS Board, under the leadership of President, Dana Sahae, and the teachers activated multiple ZOOM Classes on-line and a small in-person (outside only) preschool program on-site, following CDC and County Licensing guidelines. Through careful planning, thoughtful budgeting and much paperwork, the leadership was able to continue payment to all the teaching staff through this difficult time. 

Starting on March 18, 2020 the first Pick-up and Take Home Projects were available to SMPNS families at the preschool door and the first Mail Home Activity Packets were mailed out. These activity packets were made by the teachers and available every week through June 12, 2020. We mailed out approx 75 packets a week for approx 14 weeks.

Online Zoom Classes and Story Times continued until June 2021. From June 2020–October 2022 the in-person, on-site, outside only classes constantly adjusted to new information, masks, immunizations, and CDC, San Mateo County and California State guidelines. SMPNS had some Covid cases but by limiting the number of adults each day, wearing masks, being outside only, supporting proper hygiene, having information about immunizations, and open communication, mass infection was avoided. During this time our program enrollment dropped but we continued to serve families. The SMPNS inside classroom reopened to students and adults in October 2022. Over time, our program enrollment has increased. 

Since March 2020, many program schedule changes have taken place. Currently, our summer program is during the month of July. We still offer Early Care (7:30am-9:00am), Late Care (4:00pm-6:00pm) and Lunch (12:00pm-1:00pm). As of June 2023, we offer co-op spaces in the morning only (9:00am-12:00pm). The afternoon program is non-co-op and is staffed by teachers and aides (1:00pm-4:00pm).