The management of Head Start in Toledo has been taken from Toledo. The program is being run by outsiders who are not accountable to the government or the public in this city. Long-time Head Start workers who support families have temporarily lost their jobs, and some may lose them permanently. Head Start needs to be returned to Toledo and a group of Toledo leaders have a way to do it.
This group, which includes Mayor Mike Bell, University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, and Keith Burwell, the Toledo Community Foundation’s executive director, has sent an open letter to school districts and other education leaders to encourage anyone considering bidding for the Head Start grant to work within a collaborate framework.
The group supports creating an independent limited liability company to run the program. It will not support a grant that doesn’t include that approach. Is everyone on board? Not yet. Toledo Public Schools has left the door open.
“Let’s stop the attitude of who will be the lead applicant, who will own the money, and instead ask, how do we provide the best services possible to the children,” says Mr. Burwell.
Denver-based Community Development Institute has taken over the program on a temporary basis, ending many years of management — and mismanagement — by the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo. CDI will temporarily decide who teaches Toledo kids, where classes are held, and how the Head Start program in Toledo is run. So far, CDI seems like an unresponsive and secretive outfit.
The local $13 million Head Start program was one of dozens that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put up — for the first time — for competition in 2011. None of the bidders, which included EOPA and TPS, was selected. The federal government says the grant will be rebid in mid-July.
This important educational and community function can be returned to Toledo where it belongs — but only if all potential bidders work together.