While Toledo Public Schools officials were somewhat surprised the local Head Start grant was split in two, the other grantee is not.
Mark Kehoe, chief executive officer of Brightside Academy, a Pittsburgh-based for-profit company, said that while splitting the grant is new to Toledo, many cities have multiple Head Start grant recipients. The company does some Head Start work in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as similar work in New York.
While the TPS grant includes dozens of community partners, Brightside has not yet lined up any official partner agencies, though Mr. Kehoe said that’s in the works.
“We will absolutely work with the community as a whole,” he said.
Of the $13 million grant, Brightside Academy will receive nearly $5 million to serve 455 children. The Toledo school district will receive an $8.1 million grant to serve 1,126 children. The district will work with delegate agencies WSOS Community Action Agency and the Lucas County Family Council, as well as a group of partner agencies. The grants are for five years.
The grant isn’t new federal money for Toledo; Head Start has operated in the city for decades. It represents, however, a partial return of local control of the program, since TPS has the majority of the grant.
Management of the local Head Start program was put up for competition for the first time in 2011 by the Department of Health and Human Services, pitting previous provider Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo against TPS. Neither was selected, so HHS bid the job out again late last year.
Both TPS and Brightside are set to meet next week with HHS to discuss the grant’s division.
While TPS officials said they were still not sure Thursday what areas of the city they would serve, Brightside seemed pretty confident about its service areas. Mr. Kehoe said the company would likely serve children surrounding its three Toledo facilities: one at City Park Avenue and Dorr Street in central Toledo, another at Woodville Road and Nevada Street in East Toledo, and a third at Lagrange and Elton streets in North Toledo.
Only the City Park site is up and running.
The other two locations were shuttered by Brightside about a year ago, Mr. Kehoe said. Those sites had reached only one star on the five-star Step Up To Quality program, meaning they exceeded state standards for day-care centers but hadn’t yet reached higher levels. The City Park site has earned three stars on that scale.
Mr. Kehoe said the company had decided to focus its efforts on the City Park location and had not shut down the other locations because of poor performance.
The company has faced criticism in other cities. The New York Daily News recently reported that Brightside centers in the Bronx have had repeated health and safety violations. The company responded by saying the violations had been corrected, and that parts of the story were misleading.
Members of the Toledo collaborative had bristled at Brightside submitting its own bid, and some also said during the formulation stage that they wouldn’t have accepted Brightside into the Toledo bid because they were going to work only with three-star facilities.
Romules Durant, TPS superintendent, said Thursday that TPS was ready to work with Brightside and that he held no animosity toward the company.
Community Development Institute of Denver ran Head Start during the bidding process. It’s unclear how many of that agency’s 280 employees will keep their jobs.
Mr. Durant said Thursday that the district, WSOS, and Family Council plan to hire about 110 people. Mr. Kehoe said Brightside plans to hire more than 90 employees for its three facilities.
TPS will require teachers to have four-year degrees in early-childhood education or child development, and assistant teachers to have two-year degrees in early-childhood education.
Brightside will have the same requirements for teachers. Mr. Kehoe said he prefers assistant teachers have two-year degrees, but it’s not a requirement. More than 80 percent of Brightside Head Start students will be full-day.