Layoffs could come with Head Start federal grant funding
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A resolution will come before the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Wednesday night that, if approved, would result in a major overhaul in the leadership structure and elimination of several positions.
The resolution itself is a $4.55 million grant application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund the majority of the program in the 2012-13 school year.
Head Start is a national program that focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty through educational, health, nutrition, social, emotional and cognitive services.
It provides preschool to eligible children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old, as well as their families. In Washtenaw County, Head Start will serve 561 children in the 2012-13 school year.
The county has administered the Head Start program for the past 47 years, and decided in November 2011 that it could no longer afford the program. The commissioners then authorized the transfer of the program back to the federal government.
The county is still overseeing the program for the 12-13 year while the government seeks a longstanding administrator for Washtenaw County.
County Administrator Verna McDaniel said the Washtenaw Intermediate School District has expressed interest in submitting a proposal for the program, and she would support the move.
“We feel the educational system could handle the program and take it to the next level,” McDaniel said.
The proposed 2012-13 $4.55 million program budget is composed of $4.028 million of federal revenue, $128,500 in USDA funds and $394,563 of in-kind contributions from the school systems the program serves and the county.
The county will also have to pay $355,056 in indirect costs to keep the program operational in the 2012-13 school year, McDaniel said.
The resolution before the commissioners Wednesday night calls for the elimination of 7.8 full-time-equivalent positions during the 2012-13 school year. The positions would mostly be made up of rearranging staff and unfilled positions.
In the rearrangement, 2.3 of the full-time equivalent positions are currently filled and three people would be affected, according to a memo from Cassandra Sheriff, interim director for Head Start, to McDaniel.
“It was decided that we could hang onto it for a year if we could bring the cost down,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the majority of the layoffs would come from lower-budgeted employees.
The staff was downsized to keep Head Start’s budget balanced, McDaniel said, a move that was necessary to keep the county’s general fund on an even keel.
If the commissioners approve the resolution, teaching staff in each room will be reduced from three to two.
Currently, one lead teacher and two assistants work in classrooms. Program standards only require one lead teacher and one assistant as long as a set of family service workers and assistant teachers float between classrooms.
The same number of children will be served through the program as previous years.
Administrative positions also will be consolidated or eliminated.
“There are another several other non-union positions that we held vacant, and tried to not impact the bargaining unit the best we could,” McDaniel said.
The program director position was eliminated after the former director Pat Horne McGee retired, McDaniel said.
Sheriff has been serving as the interim director, and will continue in that role, McDaniel said.