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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Feds: Head Start program will remain with PSS

Almost a year after the federal government did an extensive check and assessment on how the federally funded Head Start program is being managed in the Commonwealth, a final decision yesterday gave the CNMI State Board of Education another five years to handle and administer the program on the islands.

An elated Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan said this was the good news that greeted Public School System personnel yesterday.

Sablan said the decision is a testament to the continued teamwork and collaboration demonstrated by the program stakeholders—leadership, staff, parents, and the community. The outcome, she said, is proof of the system’s effective and efficient operation of its programs.

Sablan praised Head Start officials and personnel for a “great job” done for Commonwealth schoolchildren.

PSS Head Start is headed by director Melissa Palacios.

If the review outcome had been unsatisfactorily, the program could have been stopped in the CNMI or PSS may have lost the program to another agency. The latest decision means that PSS remains the grantee agency for the Head Start program for another five years.

The notice was addressed to BOE chair Herman T. Guerrero.

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from low-income families with ages birth to 5.

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.

A team from the DHHS Office in Region 9 made its tri-annual review of the Head Start program in the CNMI in March 2013. In the team’s initial assessment, it identified only two minor deficiencies that were later rectified within the 120-day time frame set after receipt of the findings. The deficiencies dealt with federal requirements on record-keeping and reporting.

In the same findings, the team highlighted the many areas of strength found in the program. Among these is the maintenance of a teaching staff roster of 23 percent male. PSS Head Start has seven male teachers, which according the feds, is a positive influence on the program. It was noted that one of the positive results of having a large number of male teachers was a dramatic increase in fatherhood involvement.

Sequestration lifted

Sablan disclosed to Saipan Tribune yesterday that the CNMI’s Head Start program will continue to receive the same funding amount it got in the past. Each year, the Head Start program is mandated to serve 462 children and has an annual budget of $1.8 million, of which over $300,000 is from the local side.

Last fiscal year, the national government’s “budget sequestration” resulted in the loss of some $90,000 for the Head Start program.

Sablan disclosed that the feds have lifted the sequestration and would restore back the amount it reduced last year.

According to her, PSS and the BOE are constantly communicating with Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) on how the Head Start funding for the CNMI can be increased. “We’re pushing for that and hopefully, through the help of Congressman Kilili, our allocation would go up,” she said.

Sablan vowed that PSS will continue to enhance and maintain the quality of service offered by the Head Start program on three islands.

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