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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 6/25/2013

Officials urge unity to keep Head Start local

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As the transition toward out-of-state control of Head Start in Lucas County begins, a group of local leaders renewed a push for community collaboration they say is the best hope to return the early-childhood education program to local control.

Denver-based Community Development Institute will take over the program Monday, ending the decades-long control by the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo. The interim Head Start provider for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will decide who teaches kids, where classes are held, and how the program is run.

Community task force supporters say they want the program back under local control and say the best way to do that is through a single combined local bid.

The group, including Mayor Mike Bell, University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, and Keith Burwell, Toledo Community Foundation’s executive director, and others, sent an open letter to school districts and other education leaders to encourage anyone considering bidding for the Head Start grant to work together.

The local $13 million Head Start program was one of dozens that HHS put up for competition in 2011 for the first time. None of the bidders, which included EOPA and Toledo Public Schools, was selected. The U.S. government said the grant will be rebid, likely in mid-July. EOPA’s contract runs out Sunday.

“We have this out-of-town entity that has come over and taken over our Head Start program, because none of the [local] entities that bid on it were successful,” city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said. “Part of it is you have competing local interests, instead of coming together with one voice.”

Mr. Burwell and others say they worry that the recipient may not be from Toledo. A local grant would succeed only if it includes everyone, he said, with no lead partner. The group supports creating an independent limited liability company to run the program. Ms. Sorgenfrei said those who signed the letter won’t support a grant that doesn’t include that approach.

“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 in the children,” Mr. Burwell said.

The Rev. Donald Perryman, EOPA board chairman, said the agency backs a collaborative approach and suggested a meeting to facilitate that process.

Jerome Pecko, TPS superintendent, said the district’s bid for the grant was collaborative already and said he would need to be convinced the bid should be changed. He didn’t rule out talks.

Meanwhile, CDI began a two-day job fair Monday at The Hotel at The University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, for current Head Start employees, who must compete for their jobs.

Larry Siroshton, who according to CDI tax filings is a lead site manager, referred questions about the Lucas County operation to the HHS’ Administration for Children and Families. He then asked a reporter to leave and tried to cover a tag so a reporter couldn’t verify the spelling of his name.

Administration representatives did not return requests for comment Monday, and numerous inquiries have been ignored.

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



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