Principal Penny Stocks is calling parents today to deliver bad news: There will be no Head Start program at the elementary located in Harper Woods.
Stocks is still reeling from the Grosse Pointe School Board's decision Monday to not allow a federally funded Head Start program to operate out of her school. "I am shocked and disappointed," she said of the decision.
The Head Start program is national and aims to help young children further develop their reading and math skills before entering kindergarten to set the children up for success during their school years. The program is funded entirely through the Department of Health and Human Services and targets low-income children. In Wayne County, excluding Detroit, the program worked with 3,723 children in the 2009/2010 school year.
Stocks has been working with Head Start officials for six months. The work has involved many meetings and even more inspections to ensure the room slated for the program met all of the federal requirements, she said.
The motion to approve the program Monday failed in a 4-2 vote in which board members Brendan Walsh and Judy Gafa were the only supporters. Board member Fred Minturn was absent from Monday's meeting but had previously told Stocks he was supportive.
Board Vice President Joan Dindoffer said she had concerns about allowing the program to use a classroom that could potentially not be available the following school year due to ever-changing enrollment. Otherwise there was little discussion Monday about the program—a fact that bothers Stocks.
Stocks gave a detailed presentation to the board last month about the behind-the-scenes work on the project, why she felt it would be a good move for her students and their parents. She also offered board members a chance to attend the Harper Woods Head Start program and to ask her questions individually. One board member, Tom Jukubiec, showed up briefly, Stocks said, and other than the supporting members saying they had schedule conflicts for the visit, she heard nothing.
"If they were that concerned about it, then they should have asked questions," Stocks said.
A few board members expressed the same concerns during her presentation as were expressed during Monday's meeting about the space, which Stocks reassured them wasn't a problem. She has two empty classrooms for next year.
Head Start officials contacted Stocks about hosting the program at Poupard after numerous parents expressed interest to them through the Harper Woods Head Start, which is at maximum capacity.
Already there were siblings of 20 current Poupard students who planned to attend the program, Stocks said. She's been calling them all morning and will continue throughout the day. Their reaction, she said, is disappointment.
"They are very upset, very disappointed that their child's educational welfare isn't being considered," Stocks said.
Stocks herself admitted still being flustered today about the board's decision. She made a brisk exit from Monday's meeting upon the program's failure to pass.
The program, she said, would have helped the school in its long-term success. Earlier in the school year, Stocks said the school received negative press about low test scores. The staff has not allowed negativeness about the school discourage them from reaching their goal of educating every child, she said.
Her staff is proactive about thinking outside the box and constantly focused on school improvement goals and Head Start is one of those decisions, she said.
The decision to pursue the program wasn't taken lightly by the entire staff of Poupard and they agreed it was an educationally sound decision to have the program, Stocks said.
"I will have two empty classrooms next year where learning could have been taking place in one of them," she said.
Patch is awaiting a return phone call from a Wayne County Head Start representative.