Head Start Grantees – A Few Major Flubs Make Every Program Look Bad

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Today an article by Kimberly Hefling, AP education writer made its way around the net titled: “Safety violations found at Head Start centers.” It outlined information released by the General Inspector regarding their findings during center audits earlier this Spring at centers around the country. As a former director, I have had to deal with inspections, audits and the like, and after reading the report for North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (one of the grantees from California), I have to say I was dumbfounded.
I looked at the findings and recommendations the auditors noted in their report after they visited and took pictures (which were included in an appendix in the back of the report)at  North Coast Opportunity’s sites. The major flubs that this organization committed had to do with uncovered electrical outlets, outdated 1st aid manuals, not locking locks that should be locked at all times, and storing mops to dry in inappropriate places. Some fences needed mending and paint was found chipped on outside play equipment.
My question is – how in the WORLD could these things have been overlooked by staff and administration? Head Start directors (who are very very well paid here in California, by the way) for the most part, do not have teaching responsibilities, so how could every site that was inspected not have covers over their outlets? This is a beginning supervisor error, not a seasoned professional’s. I was so embarrassed for them, and for our profession when reading this in the report. Outdated manuals? Gates unlocked? Emergency exits blocked by furniture? Had an analyst come out from Community Care Licensing, these sites would have been sited and a meeting set up to talk about this gross negligence of their center facilities.

In California, site directors have to have a Bachelor’s degree and 105 hours of professional development over 5 years to keep their permits valid. Program directors have the same requirements plus more experience. These people know better and if they don’t – they shouldn’t be running child care programs. It makes me even sadder to know that this story was picked up in the press and reinforces in the minds of the public and other funding sources that Head Start programs do not provide the quality programs that we have come to believe to be the truth. it makes me downright angry truth be told.
Directors – get your acts together or walk away from the profession. Kids do not need burned out, lazy teachers, supervisors, and directors to care for them.
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2 responses »

  1. I have mixed feelings about the safety issues. I think that if you look hard enough, you can make anything seem dangerous. Some of the issues like gates that children can get out of, unlocked storage containing chemicals, etc, and blocked emergency exits are truly inexcusable. I can (maybe) forgive a wet mop leaning against a fence to dry and some weathered outdoor play equipment. Head Start teachers get plenty of training, yes – but much of it is Head Start training – I am not accustomed to seeing many Head start teachers at the AEYC Conference or on AEYC Boards, on Tours of Schools, etc. Head Start will improve when it comes out of what I perceive (I hope I’m wrong) its isolation from the rest of the ECE Community.

  2. When I first read the article, I was thinking about the timing of the article – how all the talk about Head Start funding is swirling around the media and then, boom, this negative piece pops up. That is why I wanted to read the findings for myself.
    I agree that there are not many Head Start teachers, nor major for-profit teachers attending or getting involved in associations and their missions. It is a shame, as their isolation hurts the kids and families they are serving. I have been guilty of not being more involved in the “cause” but after meeting you and others who are sincerely dedicated to making positive changes, I have resolved for 2012 to be more involved. Thanks for the inspiration Gregory!

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