New York couple moves to East County to open a Discovery Point franchise in Bradenton.
It was a 12,000-square-foot building that had sat empty since it was built in the Twelve Oaks Plaza eight years ago.
Upon seeing the inside for the first time, Roger Clough said it was so empty you could roll a bowling ball from one end to the other.
But Clough, who had moved in June to Polo Run in Lakewood Ranch, knew it would be perfect.
Clough and his wife Robin opened Discovery Point Child Development Center Dec. 8. The building now will be an education center for as many as 240 students ages 6 and under.
The couple, who lived in upstate New York all their lives, most of it in Massena near the Canadian border, had searched Florida to find the perfect setting for their Discovery Point franchise. They found the Lakewood Ranch area to be perfect.
Roger Clough has spent the last 25 years of his life in public education. He started as a teacher, moved into a role as an elementary and junior high school principal and then spent the past 12 years as a superintendent of two districts (six years each).
But he grew weary of his life as an administrator and he longed for a hands-on opportunity to influence young children before they got to kindergarten.
"I saw that kids weren't prepared, weren't ready to learn (in kindergarten)," he said. "I had started a junior kindergarten program in Massena. Here, we will focus on early literacy and reading readiness. When you see kids read, you see they are ready to blossom."
He said data shows children who learn to read early are very successful afterward. Wonder how serious Roger Clough is about early reading? Consider he will stock infant books they can touch.
"We've been together 25 years and I've watched him teach," said Robin Clough, who worked in U.S. Customs Homeland Security investigations more than 20 years. "It's what makes him special. I watch him with little kids and he gets down on their level. He's almost a kid himself, and he has a lot of patience."
Teaching skills aside, the Cloughs, who have two children in 18-year-old McKenzie and 16-year-old Owen, will have to be good business people as well. Their paycheck depends on it.
"I've done million dollar capital projects, but the building piece of this did have some surprises," Roger Clough said. "There are certain things that have to be in certain places."
Robin Clough admitted it is different than drawing a paycheck from someone else.
"We are learning the different (budgeting) system programs," she said. "We're learning the payroll system. It is stressful, and it is a weight on our shoulders."
Her husband added that they are working 16-hours a days that include picking up garbage, sweeping and even cooking until they get additional staff in place.
Even so, they are proud of their new building and its "top-of-the-line security." Roger Clough said those visiting need to come through two locked doors which are monitored. A fingerprint identification system will be used once the pandemic passes. The whole facility is gated.
The building was stocked with top-notch equipment. The playground equipment and the toys and learning materials inside are mostly supplied by Kaplan Early Learning.
"We will let the kids know they are being supported and that they are in a safe place," Roger Clough said.