The most successful Head Start programs use public-private partnerships, collaboration, and transparency to deliver high-quality services to at-risk children, according to a report from a community task force convened in the last five weeks to study the issue.
The recommendations were in a draft of the report viewed by The Blade; the final report is expected Monday.
The task force was assembled by the Toledo Community Foundation to examine Head Start programs nationally. The task force recommends that administration of the Head Start grant and the provision of services should be separated, possibly through the formation of an LLC, or limited liability company.
The report further recommends that community partners apply for federal Early Head Start funds, which serve infants and toddlers, when those funds become available.
More than 2,000 children ages 3 to 5 from low-income families are enrolled in Head Start in Lucas County. The program is run by the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo. EOPA was recently notified it must compete with other agencies if it wants to continue receiving nearly $13 million in federal funds to run Head Start locally. Groups that potentially could apply to run the program include Toledo Public Schools and other nonprofit or for-profit agencies.
The task force met for the first time in February. It was made up of representatives from the University of Toledo, TPS, the EOPA board, Springfield and Washington Local schools, local churches, and other organizations. It examined Head Start programs in cities including Cincinnati, Denver, Tulsa, and San Francisco.
“We want to make sure that the folks who look at this [report] take it seriously and are prepared to use it for some sort of decision making,” said Aaron Baker, assistant vice president for government relations at UT, who headed the task force.
Mr. Baker, an EOPA board member, said the report will be distributed to board members and officials from EOPA and TPS as well as other community leaders involved in meetings about Head Start, such as Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, and United Way President Bill Kitson.
Several EOPA supporters and board members have said they could get behind the idea of a community partnership via an LLC running Head Start, depending on how it might be organized.
“The question of an LLC has to do with how it is structured,” said the Rev. Kevin Bedford, president of the Toledo NAACP chapter. He has said any collaboration must strengthen EOPA and the organization must control its own future.
The task force faced criticism from several EOPA supporters and board members last week for how the community foundation selected members of the panel and for not being transparent enough. Task force meetings were not open to the public. The task force received funding from the community foundation and several local businesses, although the foundation declined to name the firms or say how much funding the group received.
EOPA board member Sylvester Gould said at a meeting last week that the idea that EOPA was represented on the task force was “a bunch of malarkey,” referring to Mr. Baker and the Rev. Donald Perryman, the two EOPA members chosen by the foundation for the committee. However, he said he would examine the task force’s recommendations.
Earl Murry, a former EOPA board president, said he was concerned none of the task force members had worked for a community-action agency.
EOPA board member Vince Davis said, “In my 36 years in Toledo, when matters come to a head that are important to our community, and the majority community seeks an African-American, they choose our leaders, we don’t. They choose leaders that are palatable to them. And they make up committees that have no real, official authorization.”
Other task force members included Amy Allen, assistant professor of early childhood education at UT; Tom Brady, former dean, UT college of education; Romules Durant, assistant superintendent, TPS, and a former EOPA board member; Shirley Green, safety director, city of Toledo; the Rev. Otis Gordon, Warren AME Church; Kristi Hannan, Help Me Grow project director; Cherie Mourlam, assistant superintendent, Washington Local Schools; Melissa Romero, instructor, early education program, Lourdes University; Dr. Elizabeth Ruppert, pediatrician, and the Rev. James Williams III, Tabernacle of Faith Worship Center.
Kathryn Hott, superintendent of Springfield Local Schools, another task force member, said, “It was a phenomenal group. I am humbled to have been a part of this.”
Mr. Baker said the completed report means the task force has fulfilled its mission although he suspects some task force members will remain involved in the discussion over what agency or agencies should run Head Start locally.
Contact Kate Giammarise at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.