Superintendent Tom Harwood is seeking to gain the school board's approval to add the Head Start program to for next school year. He detailed many reasons he believes the program would be beneficial not only to the individual students who would attend but also to the district as a whole Monday night during the board's monthly meeting.
Last year, in . The nay-sayers did not originally share much information about why they voted against the federally funded program that aims to prepare pre-school aged children for entry into kindergarten.
Later, after much public outrage and the benefits were gone by the end of first grade for students who participated.
Other nay-sayers, including current board member Joan Dindoffer, was concerned allowing such a program would violate the district's policies about allowing outside organizations in the buildings during the school day. She was the sole member who shared why she was voting against it at the time of the vote.
In Harwood's presentation Monday, he explained by having a Head Start program at Poupard, ulitimately it benefits the entire district because it will serve students from the district. These are children who will end up in the Grosse Pointe Schools, whether its first through Head Start or the first day of kindergarten. He would rather see the students being set up for success, as would Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Monique Beels, Harwood said.
Poupard's Principal, Penny Stocks, who worked with Head Start officials for more than six months last year to ensure the building and classroom space would meet federal requirements to ensure its eligibility with the program, also attended the meeting. The decision last year led to her swift exit from the board meeting.
The Director of the Wayne County Head Start Program Teresa Hutchinson also gave board members a presentation about how admission works, what curriculum is offered and the number of families currently being helped.
Should the program be approved for Poupard, it will be a classroom for 20 students, mainly 4-year-olds, Hutchinson said. There are already seven students enrolled in the Harper Woods Head Start program from the Grosse Pointe Public School District, she explained.
Last year, there were an additional 16 students who qualified, Harwood said. Both said the program would easily be filled with children from the Grosse Pointe district--another concern of one of last year's nay-sayers to the program.
Hutchinson explained the admission is based on each location, so students are admitted from the home district first and the remaining open spots, if any, are offered to students from other areas only after its been determined there are no others interested or who qualify for the program.
Currently in addition to the seven already enrolled in Harper Woods, there are nine additional students who qualify for next school year in Grosse Pointe, Hutchinson said. Finding four more students will not be hard, she said.
Dindoffer also offered some insight into research the policy committee has been doing since July as far as how to classify the Head Start program into an approved organization to be in the schools during the school day. She said the committee does not believe there needs to be an official change but an addition saying such a program can be determined by the superintendent as appropriate and furthuring to the district's educational goals for students.
Harwood detailed at least one study in Michigan that showed the longterm benefits of such a program and urged the board to approve the program, explaining he believes it will be a success.
In response to some question about funding and ensuring it remains separate by board member Tom Jakubiec, who was also one of the nay-sayers last year, Harwood explained the district actually had to spend some of its own money this school year to open another room of kindergarten and hire another teacher for students who would have otherwise been in the Head Start program this year.
The board will vote on the issue during its March meeting. Members were provided a packet of information and a list of detailed questions asked by member Lois Valente and answered by Harwood will be available on the district's website.
Near the end of the meeting, Board President Judy Gafa said she was encouraged by the progress in discussion about the Head Start program.
Monday's meeting was conducted in a more professional, congenial manner as compared to at each other after then board member Fred Minturn made a random motion to revert's the board's original decision. Minturn was absent from the day of the vote but had expressed his support beforehand. Eventually the group agreed to research ways it could possibly do something that would be beneficial district wide.
Harwood said early Tuesday that he, Beels and Stocks kept in close contact with Head Start officials since last year's failed attempt to get the program at Poupard, with the goal of re-introducing it this year. He said maintaining contact means Stocks will not have to go through inspection and the approval process as an appropriate site again, he said.
He said he is encouraged by the progress at the meeting and feels many of the questions that were posed last year were answered through the presentation, which should help elicit a different vote this year.