The Public School System expressed optimism that the federal rule that requires at least half of Head Start program teachers to have bachelor's degrees in early childhood education or related fields by the end of 2013 will be met.
Head Start program director Melissa Palacios noted that program staff are committed to meet the federal requirement to have bachelor's degrees by the end of this year.
At present, the Head Start program has 32 classroom teachers, one of whom recently obtained an ECE degree. Four other instructors, Palacios said, are completing their student teaching requirement to obtain their ECE degrees in May this year.
The rest of the teaching staff either already possess a bachelor degree in elementary education or associate degree in liberal arts, which are both considered “related fields.” Many teachers, she said, are continuing their efforts to get a bachelor's degree in early childhood education.
Head Start is a federally funded program that accommodates 462 enrollees every year. Eligible children are ages 3 to 5 years old.
The program will undergo a full review by a federal team this year to determine its effectiveness in the CNMI. Failure to satisfy the requirements of the federal government could result in the program being opened to other groups and agencies to operate.
Palacios told Saipan Tribune that the program has been ready for evaluation and assessment since October. She welcomed the full review and believes that the program has a great team, and constantly receives great support from both stakeholders and community members.
“I cannot be too confident [on this full review] because I know there's no perfect program. But I can say we have a great team, and we receive great support from PSS, [the Board of Education], and our community partners,” she said.
Palacios said the program has also been meeting requirements such as maintaining a wait-list and must have 10 percent disability enrollment every year. For school year 2013, the director said there are over a hundred children waiting for be accommodated in the program.
Head Start promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. The Office of Head Start, within the Administration of Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services awards grants to provide comprehensive services to specific communities such as the CNMI.