Classroom Opening Date for Head Start in 14 Counties Takes Some Parents by Surprise

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Kim Dodd, Director of Children Services for Community Action Partnership of North Alabama announced Tuesday the first day of class for 90 Preschool Head Start Classrooms in the Partnership’s service area will be Friday, September 6th.

Eleven Early Head Start and 16 Alabama Pre-K classrooms opened on August 19th.

Many parents are used to Head Start services beginning on the first day of school. Viewer Chrystal Eggleston's 4-year-old son participates in the Head Start program located on the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary campus. Eggleston says she found out Monday program classrooms would not open until September. The mother of three, who says she works from 8:00 to 5:00, asked us to take action and get answers behind what appeared to be a delayed opening.

Recently, Head Start offices took the opportunity to improve quality of service by reevaluating programs, in turn causing some agencies to re-write for their own grants.

When the grant for Head Start of Huntsville, Madison and Limestone Counties came up for re-compete, the funds were awarded to their counterparts in with the Community Action Partnership of North Alabama operating out of Decatur serving 14 Alabama counties.

CAPNA only received funding the first week of July, giving them just over a month to get classrooms safe, ready and licensed, explains Executive Director Michael Tubbs.

"We had chosen September 6 as our start date because we have a budget year just like the public schools do but we're not funded for 185 days.  We are only funded for 160 days," Tubbs explains. "So our year starts September 6 which is a Friday after Labor Day."

Tubbs explains usurping the program has brought on a mad dash to sort through all required registration information inherited from the previous program administrators.

"We didn't have all the information about returning children and parents," says Tubbs. "We are in the process - and it takes a little while to get this right - to be sure that we notify the right people and notify them with the right information; we needed some documentation and certain things had to be done."

WHNT News 19 asked Tubbs what was done to notify parents of the classroom start date:

"We put notices out, we put a press release out, we tried to notify all the parents and all the children but some of that information didn't get through to the right people," admits Tubbs.

pressThe message did not get through to parent Chrystal Eggleston who tells WHNT News 19 she is now struggling to secure child care until Head Start classrooms open. We found the CAPNA press release posted on the door of the MLK Elementary Head Start location.  Eggleston says it seemed like a pretty archaic notification system to her, so WHNT News 19 took action to ask if there was a better way to give parents a heads up.

"I regret the error but we have been working diligently for four to six weeks now to get all this together so those parents and children can be served," says Tubbs. "You know, last year the Head Start year may have started a little bit earlier in the other program and we understand that - look, you're right, things fell through the gap and that's something we'll try to recover from."

CAPNA will enroll 432 Head Start students before classrooms open on September 6.

The aforementioned funding changes for the Head Start non-profit parent company Community Action Partnership left dozens of people in Madison and Limestone Counties without a job. More specifically, an estimated 80 to 100 positions.

All over those personnel were, of course, qualified to apply to positions under the new program, Tubbs says.

"We are going to open 24 classrooms. We needed teacher, teacher assistant and support staff for all of those so we opened up the gate for employment opportunity for anyone who had experience so we didn't push back anyone who had Head Start experience or classroom experience in public school or anywhere else," said Tubbs.

Tubbs says they received 736 applications for around 50 positions.

"We hired a number of people out of the earlier program so they came in ready to perform."

Those hires, dozens says Tubbs, have now been taken through nine days of "boot camp" training under the new program. There is obviously a difference between available positions and the number of former program staffers left looking for a job, Tubbs points out.

"There was no job offer for them because we didn't need some of those jobs again so we have gotten by as lean as we could but we did need classroom staff and we are very pleased that a number of the people from the earlier program were able to get in our program," says Tubbs.

The Partnership, whose mission is to reduce or eliminate the causes and consequences of poverty in the Tennessee Valley, was founded in 1965 and primarily serves Cullman, Morgan and Lawrence Counties, although results are now delivered in 16 north Alabama counties. Through a comprehensive, results-driven model, the Partnership leverages federal, state and local funds to manage programs that assist families in becoming economically independent. The Partnership is the largest non-profit developer of affordable housing in Alabama with a portfolio of over 30 properties that provide safe, energy-efficient and quality housing to over 1,500 residents.

The Partnership is also part of the national NeighborWorks® network, an affiliation of more than 230 nonprofit organizations that increase homeownership, produce affordable housing and revitalize neighborhoods in more than 4,400 communities across the nation.

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