Poupard Head Start Gains Unanimous Approval

The Grosse Pointe Public School Board voted unanimously Monday to allow Head Start to start a 20-student preschool classroom at Poupard Elementary School.

A vote by the Board Monday night brought tears to the eyes of Principal Penny Stocks.

The —gained approval in a 6-0 vote after much discussion. Within moments of the vote, Stocks was surrounded by parents offering congratulatory hugs and cheers.

The vote drew applause from the audience—many of whom attended the meeting specifically for the Head Start vote. Board President Judy Gafa was the only board member to not vote as she was absent from Monday's meeting but she had spoken in favor of the program last year and again this year.

Stocks said afterward she is happy the program has finally been approved and explained she believes it is what is best for not only her school but also the district and the individual students who will benefit from the program.

The program was introduced by Stocks last school year after she had gone through an intensive inspection and application process with the federally funded program aimed at helping preschoolers develop the appropriate skills to prepare them academically for kindergarten.

In , the board voted against allowing Head Start to have a program located in Poupard despite having a waiting list for such a program.

After several of the school board members spoke Monday night about why they intended to support the program this year, board member Brendan Walsh said he was glad to hear that the board would be voting in favor of it regardless of their reasons. He also said he believes the board was undoing an action that caused the district "national embarrassment."

Board member Tom Jakubiec questioned Walsh's description and defended the board's decision from last year, explaining he had many unanswered questions—all of which have been answered in the presentations given this year.

Board member Joan Dindoffer, who was one of the members who voted against it the first time, was the only member to offer reasoning at the time of the vote. She felt it violated the district's policies regarding allowing outside organizations to hold meetings or other events during the school day.

Dindoffer, who voted in favor of the program this year, said she was thankful that district officials were patient in allowing and strive for the same objectives.

The 20-student classroom will begin next school year and Stocks said she believes it will easily be filled with all students from the Grosse Pointe Public School District—which was another concern for some of the board members.

When the program was turned down last year, Stocks had 16 students on the list for it. Last month, she explained she already had about a dozen for next school year and expected that number to easily reach 20.

As a condition to his vote in favor of the program Monday, Jakubiec requested from the district to receive bi-monthly reports on the exact number of students enrolled in the 20-student capacity preschool room who are from within the district as well as the total number of late pickups of children in the program. He explained he is worried about the use of district resources for children who are picked up late and technically not part of the school's staff's responsibility.

In addition, Jakubiec asked for detailed financial to show the transfer of funds from the federal government into Grosse Pointe Public School district funds, emphasizing that he wants to ensure the program really is free to the district.

Stocks said she's happy to offer any information the board would like—as she has been since last year—and is happy to finally gain approval.

Rather than making a brisk exit from this meeting as she did last year, Stocks left clutching a tissue and dabbing her eyes.

Rosanne Triano March 27, 2012 at 11:12 AM
This is fantastics news!
Penny Stocks March 27, 2012 at 01:03 PM
I would like to thank the board of education, Dr. Harwood, Monique Beels, Theresa Hutchinson, my amazing staff and everyone that supported the Head Start program. I am so proud to be an educator in a district that cares so deeply for education. This program will make a positive difference in the lives of so many families and to our community. A special thanks to my son who is my greatest supporter. He encouraged me to not give up on what I truly believe is right and to continue to pursue what I am passionate about in a way that is honest and forthright. Thanks Kyle Penny Stocks Proud Principal of Poupard Elementary School
Judy Gafa March 27, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I am thrilled that the board was able to pass the Head Start proposal in a 6-0 vote. While I am extremely disappointed I was unable to attend the meeting due to illness, I am thrilled that our most neediest students will be getting the help they need.
Kathy Abke March 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
A tremendous wrong has been righted. This is great news for the district and the entire community. Welcome to the school system, Head Start. The community will benefit greatly from your services
Kyle March 27, 2012 at 06:23 PM
What a great turn of events. I know how hard Penny worked to get the Head Start program approved and I know that this will benefit not only her school, but the entire district. Today we all went to the school of Penny Stocks and were taught a valuable lesson!
Kathy Abke March 27, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I'd like to add that this Head Start issue has been near and dear to my heart, and I have personally worked hard at speaking up about it at School Board Meetings and around town. I am thrilled the issue passed last night (it was indeed a "national embarrassment") but I left the meeting with a bad taste in my mouth. I debated all day whether to speak up again, or to just hold on to the victory for preschoolers and families in our community. I find I need to garner my courage to speak once again. The comments made during the meeting about monitoring just who gets in to the Head Start Program sound, in my heart, exclusionary. Exclusivity is, at best, short sighted. At worst, and to those of us who understand privilege, frightening. I wanted nothing more than to celebrate this hard won progress. Head Start will meet a tremendous need in our community which will better our schools for years to come. I hope certain board members will worry less about just how many kids from outside the district get the privilege of participating and more about the needs of students and families all around us. It's why I felt the need to get involved ten months ago. I celebrate Head Start at Poupard Elementary. I'm sad the opposition continues.
Beth Pellegrini March 28, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Congratulations. The passion for this issue has finally been rewarded and I am so happy for the kids who are going to benefit from this program.
LMJ March 28, 2012 at 05:22 PM
After attending the meeting in my role as Board Observer for the Monteith PTO, I came away with a number of impressions, one of which was the overwhelming sentiment by the community that the Head Start initiative is something that would benefit children, be representative of our values that dictate we educate all kids to the best of our ability, and add value to our district. It was encouraging to see that the Board members who'd previously voted the initiative down have moved towards this perspective, and to the members of the Board, and the community ( Penny Stocks, many families and parents who've spoken in suport of the HS program) who've advocated for this so strongly from the beginning have been rewarded for their hard work and support. The value of Head Start and early education is without question of high value- I would like to see GPPSS continue to set a high bar for what will provide all kids within our district as many opportunities as possible to achieve at a high level and to continually work towards the goal of providing the very best we have to offer.
gpjes March 28, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I wonder if the Board and the residents of the Grosse Pointe Schools had seen this report before approving this program? http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/02/head_start_can_a_failed_program_ever_be_killed.html
LMJ March 29, 2012 at 07:31 PM
J, There are a number of studies ( I tend to use meta-analyses as a solid basis for most research, as these tend to mitigate the bias of a single study ) that demonstrate the many benefits of a HS program, particularly to at-risk youth. I've linked a number of those here in case you want to take a look at them. Regardless of the hard data evidence, there are the benefits that haven't been or can't be measured- one that I like to cite is the benefit of early parent engagement, which has been repeatedly and universally proven as a key contributor to student success and achievement. The following research is a good place to get started on getting a much broader, nuanced picture of what Head Start programs really afford us, which is substantial. http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/reports/headstar.htm http://nieer.org/resources/research/BattleHeadStart.pdf http://www.childtrends.org/Files/Child_Trends-2010_05_10_HL_EarlyHeadStart.pdf http://depts.washington.edu/isei/iyc/barnett_hustedt18_1.pdf
Chris K March 29, 2012 at 09:11 PM
JPJES: I think the "Time" article within your citation is a short comment about the concerns many have with Head Start to include President Obama and his administration. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2081778,00.html Lynn: As for the studies you cite, I didn't read them but the dates of the studies are" 1990,2002,2010 and 2005. The 2010 longitudinal study by HHS would certainly trump old data from meta analyses and from what I could see took into account all the time periods your references covered. The school board made its decision to accept a free federally funded program with questionable outcomes and it is time to move on. As I thought the district's strategic plan called for the use of research based best practices, I hope they are keeping this in mind when they are spending our local tax dollars to adopt programs for the students in this district as opposed to doing what is politically expedient or politically correct.
LMJ March 29, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Chris, I would argue that the outcomes are not at all questionable, and when you get a chance to read some of the fuller research ( and ideally not politically biased research, we can agree to that) you might also agree that, again, the documented benefits are certainly not negligible. In addition to that, the piece that is often ignored, particularly when this is in the context of a discussion based on party-line politics is that the anecdotal evidence ( which is almost exclusively positive) is not something to be ignored. This goes to something I believe you've expressed in other discussions re: using fuller and more finely tuned metrics to understand district success and deficit. If HS provides an opportunity to expand and encourage parent engagement, provides an earlier opportunity to provide necessary modeling and support of social skills, and adds to stakeholder satisfaction ( which should please any free-market enthusiast) , why and how can this be a detriment to the district? Lastly, I'm not seeing where a "free federally funded program" and "spending local tax dollars" are consistent with each other. The Board ( which voted 6-0 on this, this time around) are NOT spending district dollars, which is such a compelling reason to adopt the program. I would agree with you that the discussion on this issue is fairly moot. The initiative passed 6-0, and we now have HS at Poupard.
Brendan Walsh March 29, 2012 at 10:28 PM
The Board also makes decisons that reflect the interests of the community, which are not always aligned with research based best practices. The best example? Class size. Just as research conflicts on many other programs, class size (with exception of those less than 15 in grades 1-3) does not correlate with student achievement. Yet the consistent voice of the community is that smaller class sizes is what they want. Is that politcally correct? Maybe. Is it reflective of what the community wants? Undoubtedly. Is it more expensive than Head Start? Infinitely (since HS is not funded locally).
Chris K March 30, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Lynn: I had no idea that HHS engaged in politically biased research. And to think the HHS Impact study was prepared by one administration and released by another administration from another political party is outrageous political bias!. The TIME article didn't seem particularly biased when it noted: "Both liberal and conservative subsidies linger in perpetuity, sometimes metastasizing into embarrassing giveaways. It's about time Grosse Pointe benefits from those giveaways. Local taxes however, should not be spent on programs of questionable value. Brendan: Aren't you forgetting to mention that class size also reflects the interests of the teachers union which seeks to limit class size contractually? And that the consistent voice of the teachers union is heard along with the community? It's just another one of those politically expedient decisions the Board just has to make.
LMJ March 30, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Chris, I was referring to the article in American Thinker as politically biased. Again, local tax dollars are not being spent- as you noted yourself, this is fully federally funded. As demonstrated by an overwhelming majority of our own community, the value of Head Start is not at all questionable- if taxpayer dollars were funding this, you'd have an argument but I honestly don't understand why a person would argue that a school district turn away free money to fund a program a majority of its stakeholders want. As has been reiterated here again and again, there are value-added aspects of our district that are also not necessarily hard-data driven ( although I could certainly find plenty that shows plenty of HS success stories across a variety of domains) like that class size choice. I disagree that class size is driven by union contract wants. When I was actively working against School of Choice last year with MCLC. I spoke to hundreds of residents, who all cited, above all, increasing class size as their primary concern related to SOC legislation passage. Not one thing was as important to every person I came in contact with, and it was not only limited to GP- it was an across-state concern of all parents. To be clear, since this seems to be an ongoing assertion- there are NO local tax dollars being spent on this program, and it was supported more vociferously by district parents than any other group.
Chris K March 30, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Lynn: You are either misreading my comments or/and misrepresenting them in your responses. I fully understand that HS is a federally funded program. I suggested that readers might review the TIME article as I thought is was objective whereas I thought the "research" you cited in response to the American Thinker post was dated. As for class size, I didn't say union demand was THE factor but A factor along with community demand and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Few suburban parents want to hear about the research that suggests class size is not a factor after third grade - it goes against what they believe. I am not interested in turning this into a discussion about class size but if you are interested in the research you should ask Brendan Walsh as he raised the issue. I simply hope that when the Board spends our local tax dollars on programs it is done with consideration to research based best practices as provided for in the Strategic Plan. Brendan's comment about keeping class size high in spite of the research only serves to prove my point that at times the Board acts for political expediency.
Brendan Walsh March 30, 2012 at 10:48 AM
Don't pat your forensics skills too firmly on the back when I admitted that point. And THAT point is that you keep claiming that all policy decisions should be based on research, which is not true. Public bodies make decisions that reflect the will of the people they represent balanced against the function of the government service. Research can play a role. What you call "political expediency" others would call the will of the people. The same Strategic Plan to which you refer also encompasses community engagement and feedback.


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