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Board cuts Head Start

June 07, 2000|By TARA REILLY

The Washington County Board of Education will not provide Head Start services in the next school year, which could mean 20 to 25 instructional aide positions will be cut, Board President Paul W. Bailey said Wednesday.

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Some children could be turned away from the program if the number of applicants exceeds the amount allowed by the federal government.

The seven Head Start teachers under contract with the School Board will be reassigned to other positions as they become available, Bailey said.

Resources For Children and Families of Hagerstown, a community-based nonprofit organization of the Maryland Child Care Resource Network, was named the official grantee for Head Start funds last week and received a $2.1 million federal grant to fund the program.

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The School Board had partnered with the Local Management Board, which also pursued the grant but was denied. As a result of the fund distribution, the Head Start program, which promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of low-income children, will not be offered in the school system after June 30.

The grant to Resources For Children and Families will fund classes for 367 children. If more than 367 enroll, some could be turned away based on need, according to Paul Pittman, executive director of Resources For Children and Families.

There are 418 Head Start students in the countywide program this year. About 210 students attended Head Start classes offered by the School Board at various elementary schools, and the other 208 were served by Resources For Children and Families at the Martin Luther King Center in Hagerstown.

When Resources For Children and Families takes over, about 216 children will go to Head Start at the Martin Luther King Center, Noland Village Community Center or the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, according to early projections.

Resources For Children and Families is still looking for classroom space for the other 151 children. The organization is negotiating with the School Board to rent classroom space at some schools. If both sides agree to a contract, Head Start instruction would be provided by Resources For Children and Families, not the School Board.

Community Action Council, which in the past had obtained Head Start funds and distributed them to both the School Board and Resources For Children and Families to provide Head Start services, decided last December to no longer be the federal grantee for Washington County's program after 35 years, Bartlett said.

CAC's role was to write grant applications each year and administer Head Start funds for Resources For Children and Families and the School Board for the Head Start program.

The Local Management Board, a government agency that seeks and approves grants for programs for families and children, was officially notified Tuesday it would not receive a grant this year, Bailey said.

Pittman, executive director of Resources For Children and Families, said his organization asked the School Board in mid-December 1999 to participate in its grant application but was turned down.

Bartlett, however, said the School Board was never asked and that Pittman didn't include the School Board in the grant application.

"Mr. Pittman wrote us out," Bartlett said. "We had nothing to do with it. He never asked us."

Pittman provided The Herald-Mail with a letter dated Dec. 17, 1999, that asked the School Board to be included in RFC's grant application and to work with RFC to provide Head Start services.

The letter was addressed to Bartlett and copies were sent to the elected School Board members, Pittman said.

"That is very inaccurate, and he knows it," Pittman said. "I stand by that."

Bartlett did not return phone calls Wednesday evening.

Bailey said the School Board received a letter from Pittman asking for support, but chose to be included in the Local Management Board's application because the board felt it had the stronger grant proposal.

"We as a board did not have access to RFC's proposal," Bailey said. "Mr. Pittman sent us a letter. We chose LMB's proposal because it was more in line with what we felt was appropriate for that age child."

Plans under Resources For Children and Families include full day/full year services as well as morning and afternoon sessions at various sites throughout the county.

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