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Published: Tuesday, 11/19/2013

New grant bid expected

For-profit apparently aims for Head Start funds

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A local collaborative’s Head Start bid will likely face competition.

Brightside Academy, a Pittsburgh-based, for-profit early education and child-care provider, appears to be preparing an application for at least part of the more than $12 million federal grant to run Toledo’s early childhood education program.

Company officials did not return phone messages in the last week, but representatives have met with, or requested meetings with, several Toledo agencies in recent days.

“They are definitely putting a bid in,” Keith Burwell, president of the Toledo Community Foundation, said of Brightside.

A Toledo-Lucas County Public Library spokesman said Brightside asked the library to write a letter of endorsement for the company’s Head Start bid — a request the library declined.

A United Way of Greater Toledo spokesman said Brightside representatives requested a “meet and greet” with United Way officials, and Mr. Burwell said he also met with Brightside.

After months of meetings, a group of Toledo agencies agreed last month to submit a joint bid for the Head Start grant instead of competing against each other to run the program administered locally for decades by the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo.

The collaborative includes EOPA, the Toledo Public Schools, the WSOS community action agency, the Lucas County Family Council, the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo, and the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West. Other agencies may eventually become partners or have roles in administering parts of the grant.

Under the proposed arrangement, Toledo Public Schools would be the lead grantee, and delegate agencies would be the Family Council and WSOS, which administers Head Start and Early Head Start in Wood, Sandusky, Ottawa, and Seneca counties.

Mr. Burwell said Brightside was invited to join the collaborative but did not.

“They are for-profit, and they are looking to make money,” he said.

The Head Start grant was one of dozens the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initially put up for competition in 2011. EOPA and TPS submitted their own bids during that competition, but neither was selected.

Brightside had considered applying at that time for the Head Start grant. It doesn’t appear the company actually applied during that round, but HHS will not release the names of agency applicants.

A Denver-based firm took over the program in Lucas County on July 1 and will run Head Start until HHS selects a grant winner in a fresh competition announced earlier this year.

The federal government announced in late August that Toledo would be part of a national pilot initiative, expanding its local Head Start program to offer services for children from birth through age 5.

That announcement also extended the deadline to apply for the grant to Dec. 2.

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



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