Thursday, Dec 08, 2016
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EOPA hopeful about Head Start grant

Officials and board members from the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo believe they stand a good chance of continuing to run Head Start in Lucas County.

The agency's board met Monday night for the first time since submitting a grant application this month to retain the program for children from low-income households.

"I feel good about the grant," said Albert Scott, who oversees Head Start for the planning association. "I think we provided quality information relative to the questions they asked us," he told board members at the Monday night meeting.

The agency learned in December that it must compete against other agencies if it wants to continue receiving nearly $13 million annually to run Head Start, a program for 3 to 5-year-olds from low-income families. The announcement was followed by months of political acrimony and disputes about what organization would be best suited to run the program -- EOPA, the Toledo Public Schools, other agencies, or a community collaboration.

Aug. 14 was the deadline to apply for the grant. In addition to the planning association, TPS applied, spokesman Patty Mazur confirmed. Officials from Brightside Academy, a Pittsburgh-based for-profit early education and child-care provider with locations in Toledo that had previously said it was considering applying, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Brightside would provide the educational component and work with another agency to provide social services, the company's chief executive officer had previously stated.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency with oversight over Head Start, declined to reveal how many or which organizations had applied, citing department policy. The agency said it only would reveal the successful applicant.

The grant will be awarded to up to three agencies; the announcement of what agency or agencies will be the grantee is not expected until December or later.

Aaron Baker, a planning association board member who served on a community task force to study Head Start best practices, said he believes the agency has "as good a chance as any other organization applying."

Should EOPA not be awarded a full or partial grant, the impact on the central-city agency would be serious. Head Start funding makes up the bulk of the agency's $19.5 million budget, according to tax records. The agency also operates heating-assistance programs, home-repair assistance, a fatherhood program, and other social services in the city and countywide.

At the board meeting, members voted to make Brooks Insurance the agency's insurer of record.

Board member Vince Davis said he'd like to see a formal plan for leadership succession at the agency. Referring to Mr. Scott, Finance Director Robert Jordan, and agency Chief Executive Officer James Powell, Mr. Davis said, "Dr. Scott, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Powell, you're not going to be the same people that run this organization forever."

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-724-6091 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.

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