An appeal by the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo to reverse a federal government decision to turn over administration of the local Head Start program has been denied, with a federal official citing a history of deficiencies and non-compliance 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 for a 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 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 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 will be announced later this spring. Meanwhile, Community Development Institute, a Denver firm, will run the program in Lucas County starting July 1.
In her response to EOPA, Ms. Sanchez Fuentes pointed to the funding announcing 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 non-compliance on every (Office of Head Start) monitoring review conducted in the last five years," Ms. Sanchez Fuentes wrote.
Her letter details a series of reports that found problems at EOPA's Head Start program, many of which have been detailed in The Blade. Those reports had found over time that the program had fallen below its Head Start enrollment benchmarks, did not provide 128 days of classes, multiple occasions where children were left alone on buses, and other deficiencies.
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.
"While I understand this is a difficult time for your agency, I thank you in advance for working with (the Office of Head Start) on the transition of services on behalf of the children and families in Toledo, Ohio," she wrote.