The Flash Staff Report
STEPHENVILLE (August 19, 2016) – After several weeks of uncertainty, area parents have been notified Head Start and Early Head Start programs are back on track.
The programs that provided services to economically disadvantaged families and developmentally delayed children in eight counties previously served by Texas Neighborhood Service (TNS), are now under the management of Community Development Institute Head Start (CDI).
TNS lost grant moneys for the programs during the summer, and CDI has been awarded the funding on an interim basis, according to a letter recently sent to parents and caregivers whose children were previously enrolled.
CDI is expected to reopen and operate all centers in Erath, Hood, Johnson, Navarro, Palo Pinto, Parker, Somervell and Wise counties. Some locations are expected to reopen Monday, while others may not be able to provide services until late September.
The organization informed Stephenville parents that Head Start, which serves preschool-aged children, will open August 22. It is among 11 centers opening at the beginning of the school year, which also includes Head Start programs in Alvarado, Alvarado, Azle, Bridgeport, Glen Rose, Lillian and Weatherford and Early Head Start programs, which provide services to pregnant women, infants and children younger than three years old, Corsicana, Boyd and Glen Rose.
Stephenville’s Early Head Start program and centers in Granbury, Cleburne and Mineral Wells have a delayed start date due to questions related to the ownership of the facilities in which they previously operated. Facilities that housed Decatur Head Start and Wise County Early Head Start are currently involved in a legal transfer of ownership.
Parents and caregivers are being directed to www.cdiheadstart.org/northtexas for additional information.
Calls and email from The Flash to CDI and federal officials that oversee Head Start were not returned as of press time.
CDI has provided interim services to more than 200 Head Start Programs in the last 16 years, according to the organization’s website. It is appointed by the federal government when the relationship between previous management and the Office of Head Start is terminated.
Locally, the loss of funding followed a federal lawsuit involving TNS, which has been the subject of news reports by the Weatherford Democrat, www.weatherforddemocrat.com, and Mineral Wells Index, www.mineralwellsindex.com.
In April, a federal district judge found TNS, a Weatherford-based nonprofit, inappropriately distributed $1.3 million in incentive pay that was awarded 2010 through 2012. The misappropriation of funds was reportedly discovered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2013.
The Weatherford Democrat reported TNS was required to compete for continued funding due to deficiencies that included the fiscal issues after 2013.
TNS reportedly received $5.9 million for Head Start and $3.8 million for Early Head Start programs in the current fiscal year. The termination of funding was effective June 30, leading to the closure of Head Start and Early Head Start centers across the area and laying off of almost 300 employees.
But, 289 staffers have been hired by CDI, which gave all employees of TNS the opportunity to continue their work with the programs. Those employees have since undergone pre-service training under the direction of CDI and will continue to provide care under new the leadership.
Samie Williams, former Head Start and Early Head Start director under TNS, and most area managers retained their positions.
Meanwhile all facilities occupied by the programs have been subjected to a facilities assessment and a repair list was generated for each.