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County sets final day for its control of Head Start
by Jason Collins
Apr 04, 2014 | 29 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Bee County leaders approved June 4 as the final day that the county will run Head Start. Another agency will likely take it over after that date.
Jason Collins Photo Bee County leaders approved June 4 as the final day that the county will run Head Start. Another agency will likely take it over after that date.
slideshow
County commissioners have been discussing now for months relinquishing control of Head Start which is part of the Bee Community Action Agency. Just how did this come about? What led to this decision? Double click on the video for full screen.
Why the county gave up Head Start
County commissioners have been discussing now for months relinquishing control of Head Start which is part of the Bee Community Action Agency. Just how did this come about? What led to this decision? Double click on the video for full screen.
County leaders have done away with one of the largest portions of the Bee Community Action Agency — Head Start.

This leaves only a handful of programs under the agency, including the energy assistance and rural public transportation programs.

Head Start is still expected to continue. It will just be under another agency.

Last year, BCAA lost the seniors meal program — for a reason similar to this one.

During a special meeting late Friday afternoon, county leaders gathered to discuss not if, but when, the county would discontinue running the Head Start program.

“I think the main thing we want to set here today is the date,” County Judge David Silva said at the start of the meeting.

Commissioner Dennis DeWitt proposed June 4 or earlier as the cutoff as this is the last day of school for the Goliad Head Start program.

Commissioner Carlos Salazar looked at the representatives from BCAA and Head Start who were sitting in the courtroom audience.

“We are going to require some help from you guys to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he said.

Salazar said that Anna Simo would likely no longer be head of BCAA when her contract expired later this year.

“After some discussion with the judge, we were wondering and hoping we could leave her on board a couple of weeks so she could be there to answer any and all questions related to the Head Start program that she is familiar with?” he asked.

That topic wasn’t up for discussion as it would fall outside of the agenda item listed.

Silva did say, “I think the court is probably more than willing to do something like that.”

Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez questioned whether this early termination of the county running the program was in the best interest of its continuing with another agency in charge.

Simo assured him and the rest of the court that this would actually help.

“If the court is going to voluntarily relinquish control, then we need to specify the effective date so we can notify the funding agency — the sooner the better. Well, not the better, but the sooner that we notify the agency and give them the effective date, the sooner they can bring in that interim sponsor for the program,” she said.

This isn’t the first department under BCAA to fall because of financial issues.

Last year, county commissioners learned that the seniors meal program was facing financial problems.

The problem, as discussed during multiple court hearings, was a budget shortfall partially due to what the Community Services Block Grant would fund and unbudgeted expenses such as vehicle repairs.

The county at that time was on the hook for $66,000.

The meals program provides food to elderly, disadvantaged people within the county, either by delivery to their home or served at a central location. The program in Bee County was being grant funded based upon an estimate that 54 people were being served.

That number was actually 30 people.

In this case, Alice Community Action Agency volunteered to take over the program when it ended in September, and continue it for the county.

It is unknown now who will take over the Head Start program permanently or whether the county will lose the $371,000 it expected to be reimbursed. County officials are awaiting a response to their request to keep the money.

That amount was originally denied because of a lack of community involvement and volunteer hours.

This is separate from the $284,625 that Simo said she had asked to keep, despite a decline in enrollment from what the BCAA projected during its grant proposal.

All in all, the county, had it continued running both organizations, could have lost more than $1.6 million in unreimbursed money.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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