Head Start hopes to have staffing answers by Monday
Program director hears positive feedback,' says employees are mulling options
Frederick County Head Start officials should know by Monday how many of their employees have accepted new job offers for higher salaries and will be coming back to the program after it transitions into the hands of a federal government contractor on Tuesday.
Pat Rosensteel, director of the Frederick County Head Start program, said a number of Head Start employees expressed interest in the new offer on Friday, a day after the Frederick Board of County Commissioners pledged to give Head Start $250,000 to help entice employees to return to the program.
However, employees were still calling in, asking questions, weighing their options, and may need a couple of days to make a final decision, Rosensteel said.
"I don't blame people for being uncertain," she said. "But I've been hearing some positive feedback."
The new money is a one-time contribution to help the program increase the work hours for staff from 30 to 35 hours per week. It will also allow Head Start to increase by 30 percent the salaries that Community Development Institute, a federal government contractor based in Denver, Colo., is offering staff members.
Officials hope the money will help entice employees to return to their old positions and help ease the transition of the program, which is losing half of its funding ($2.3 million) and moving into the hands of CDI, a federal government contractor, on Tuesday.
Regardless of the number of people who accept new job offers with Head Start, the program will have to close nine of its 16 centers until at least March 7, Rosensteel said.
The closures are driven by a lack of staffing, Rosensteel said. Before they received the commissioners' latest offer, only 30 to 35 of the 80 Head Start employees had agreed to work for the program for fewer hours and lower salaries, she said.
That means that the program will not be able to serve 135 of the 282 children it is required to serve in Frederick County.
The centers will start to reopen as soon as CDI can hire staff for the program, Rosensteel said. Once it becomes clear on Monday how many of the program's staff members will take up jobs with Head Start, CDI will start advertising the remaining positions, Rosensteel said.
The future of Frederick County Head Start has been uncertain since Feb. 8, when commissioners voted 4-1 to pull $2.3 million from Head Start, leaving $2.1 million to run the program. Commissioner David P. Gray (R) was the lone dissenting vote.
As a result of the change, representatives from CDI have been trying to determine how to restructure the program, which currently has 16 centers in Frederick County and serves children ages 3 and 4 in families that fall below the federal poverty line: $22,050, in annual salary for a family of four.
The transition has been painful for staff and families, who have felt they were left stranded half way through the school year.
Parents who came to Head Start policy council meeting on Thursday night said teachers simply cannot afford to go back to work for the program for salaries that were about half of what they used to make.
Nancy Jacobo said she doesn't believe that the county's $250,000 pledge to Head Start will improve the situation.
"This is only until June. It's a temporary fix," she said. "[The commissioners] didn't think about anybody when they did this."
Jacobo was also worried about her 3-year-old son Victor who attends the Bernard Brown Head Start Center in Frederick. The center closed on Friday, and Jacobo said she couldn't prepare him for the fact that it was his last day with his teachers there.
"He thinks he will see them on Monday," Jacobo said.
Kagiso Dobosu, who has two boys 3-year-old Elijah and 4-year-old Deon at the same center, said she still has not figured out how she will be able to provide childcare for her children when the center closes on Monday.
Dobosu is a single parent who takes classes at Frederick Community College, and she is not sure how she will be able to afford it. She is also worried that the change will have a negative effect on her boys, who had just started opening up for their teachers at Head Start.
"If they have somebody new they probably won't open up as much," she said. "This is just not right. They are not thinking about the kids."
Parents who came to the meeting on Thursday had many questions about the transition of the program, and were disappointed that CDI representatives were not there to give them answers.
However, Head Start and Frederick County officials who attended the meeting told parents they will have a chance to talk to CDI staff at a parent meeting on Tuesday night. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Waverley Elementary School, 201 Waverley Drive