EOPA loses Head Start appeal

U.S. Health and Human Services points out deficiencies list

  • Head-Start-logo-EOPA

  • Perryman

    The federal government denied an appeal by the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo to reverse a decision to turn over administration of the local Head Start program, with a federal official citing a history of deficiencies and noncompliance by EOPA.

    On June 30, EOPA’s $13 million Head Start grant runs out, and a Colorado-based firm will serve as interim provider while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeks applicants to be the permanent provider. A request sent last month by EOPA board chairman the Rev. Donald Perryman to HHS asking that it reverse the decision was denied, according to a letter dated May 9 by Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, director of the Office of Head Start.

    The local Head Start grant was one of dozens that HHS put up for competition for the first time, but the department announced earlier this year that none of the local applicants, which included EOPA and Toledo Public Schools, had submitted bids that met its standards.

    A new chance to bid is to be announced this spring. Meanwhile, Community Development Institute, a Denver firm, will run the program in Lucas County beginning July 1.

    In her response to EOPA, Ms. Sanchez Fuentes pointed to the funding announcement for the local Head Start grant, which allowed the federal government to review prior monitoring reports of Head Start programs if the applicant is a current or former Head Start grantee.

    “[A review of EOPA] revealed a history of multiple deficiencies and areas of noncompliance on every [Office of Head Start] monitoring review conducted in the last five years,” Ms. Sanchez Fuentes wrote.

    Her letter lists a series of reports that found problems at EOPA’s Head Start program, many of which have been detailed in The Blade. Those reports found over time that the program had fallen below its Head Start enrollment benchmarks, did not provide 128 days of classes, had multiple occasions where children were left alone on buses, and other deficiencies.

    Mr. Perryman said he was disappointed in the response, and said HHS didn’t account for changes EOPA has made in the last year. He said that there are new board members, that EOPA is going through an independent financial and organizational review, and that it is searching for a replacement for former CEO James Powell, who was terminated earlier this year. Mr. Powell led EOPA during the tenure HHS reviewed.

    “I’m mindful of the deficiencies and the past noncompliance issues, but that’s in the past,” Mr. Perryman said. “It’s not indicative of where we are today.”

    Ms. Sanchez Fuentes said her agency still plans to turn over Head Start administration to CDI, and asked EOPA to set up a conference call with the firm and Head Start officials to facilitate transition.

    Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com, 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.