Head Start staff to lose their Frederick County jobs March 1
County commissioners to vote Tuesday to relinquish funding to federal program in Frederick to close budget gap
Head Start staff in Frederick County were told Monday afternoon they will lose their jobs with the county as of March 1.
Eighty staff members 50 teachers and 30 support staff were called to Winchester Hall, the seat of county government, Monday afternoon and informed that the Frederick Board of County Commissioners will vote Tuesday on a proposal to relinquish county funding to the federal Head Start program.
The federal program is designed to serve children ages 3 to 5 in families that fall below the federal poverty line: $22,050 in salary for a family of four. The program serves nearly 280 students annually throughout the county and has existed for four decades.
Commissioners want to take the county's share of the funding $2.3 million and put it toward a $12 million projected deficit for the county's overall fiscal 2012 budget.
It costs $4.4 million to run Head Start in Frederick. The county's portion is $2.3 million. Another $2.1 million comes from the federal government.
Most of the county money goes toward employees' salaries and benefits, which has allowed Head Start to raise the requirements for training and experience of its teachers and staff.
"On the agenda tomorrow is a vote to relinquish the program," County Manager Barry Stanton said to the teachers and employees that packed the first-floor hearing room of Winchester Hall on Monday. "It doesn't mean the program will stop. It will continue to operate in Frederick County, but not by Frederick County."
Even though commissioners won't vote until Tuesday, county staff already has mapped out plans for privatizing the program.
"It's on the agenda for tomorrow," Stanton said. "That is why we're telling you now. We have a plan in place."
Stanton said if commissioners vote to relinquish funding to the program, a federal government contractor, Community Development Institute of Denver, will take over interim management on March 1. That company will manage Head Start until a new entity takes over funding and management.
Stanton said several nonprofit agencies in the county have expressed interest in providing funding. Stanton declined to name the nonprofits.
Mark Elliott, with Community Development Institute, was at Monday's meeting to reassure teachers that jobs will be available. Elliott said the company will host a job fair on Feb. 18 and 19 for Head Start employees only.
But not everyone is guaranteed a job, since the institute will only be working with the federal portion of the funding for Head Start, or $2.1 million.
Head Start employees have been asked to come back to Winchester Hall on Thursday to hear from the county's Human Resource Department.
"This is very painful for everybody," said Mitch Hose, director of Human Resources. "We take this very seriously ... [Community Development Institute] will not be able to hire everybody. That is why we're coming up with a plan that will help you as best we can through this time."
On Thursday, Hose and his staff will go over the benefits and severance plans that employees may be entitled to receive after Feb. 28, their last day of work with the county.
Frederick County Head Start employees are employees of the county and are eligible for all the county's salary increases and benefits.
Nearly 280 students are enrolled at 11 locations in Frederick County. Low-income parents rely on it to prepare their preschool children for kindergarten and provide them with childcare, medical and nutritional services.