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Group running Toledo's Head Start picks longtime official to lead it


James H. Powell, interim executive director of the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo, is the choice of the organization's board to be its executive director. His selection is to be considered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The executive director position pays $98,642 a year.

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Board members at the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo have unanimously selected a long-time agency official to continue to lead the troubled anti-poverty organization.

James H. Powell, who had been serving as the group's interim director, was recommended by the board's personnel committee, and elected by the entire board at a meeting Friday night at The Chop House in Maumee.

"I appreciate your faith and confidence in me," Mr. Powell told the board and guests on Friday, pledging to move the organization forward.

The organization's Head Start Parent Policy Council approved the appointment yesterday.

Before Mr. Powell can take over the top job, however, the selection must be approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the source of much of the agency's funding.

It was unclear yesterday if the department had been notified of the board's intention to appoint Mr. Powell, or if he would receive the final approval, a Health and Human Services spokesman said.

In the past year, the local agency has attracted negative publicity because of infighting among board members, personnel issues, and financial problems. It owes about $585,500 to the state department of education. Last month, it underwent a federal review, though the results of the review are not available yet.

After the agency's longtime executive director died last year, some board members - who later resigned - favored bringing in an outside director to run the agency. According to tax records, the agency employs more than 350 people and has an annual budget of about $16 million. Most of the funding comes from federal sources, and the bulk of the money is for Head Start, a program for preschool children from low-income families.

Mr. Powell's personnel file shows he was hired by the agency in 1989, and headed the minority contractors and business assistance program until 1992, when he was laid off. He returned to the position in 1995.

He served as the agency's deputy director from 2001 until this year, when he was appointed to the interim position.

His performance reviews were all positive, with "excellent" or "very good" ratings in quality, productivity, attendance, and other categories.

As executive director, he would be paid $98,642 per year.

As interim director, he has supervised program directors, monitored fiscal issues, identified new grant sources, and provided positive leadership in the agency culture, according to the resume he submitted for the position.

The Blade repeatedly requested the resumes of all the applicants for the job, which are public record under Ohio's open records laws. The agency has not provided the resumes. There were more than 50 applicants for the position.

Three candidates were interviewed for the job, said Greg Hopkins, the agency's human resources director.

In July, Mr. Powell was given a list of goals, according to agency documents, such as achieving Head Start enrollment targets, evaluating the agency's directors, assessing all departments and programs, investigating moving the agency out of its current headquarters, and a number of other requirements.

It is not clear whether all the goals have been accomplished.

Earl Murry, the board member who headed the personnel committee, said the criteria for the job included administrative experience, a bachelor's degree, awareness of funding sources, and a number of other qualifications.

"In the view of the personnel committee, Mr. Powell has admirably performed his duties, and we believe that he will be a good steward for EOPA, and he will bring EOPA around in all the positive ways that are needed," Mr. Murry said.

He said he anticipates the selection will be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services.

He added the board conducted a thorough search of all possible candidates for the job.

"Jim Powell was not the heir apparent," he said.

Contact Kate Giammarise at:

or 419-724-6133.

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