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   The Story of Head Start
By Evelyn Scallan, Director

The Avoyelles Head Start Program has been in operation since 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" initiative.  This spring we have been in operation for 50 years.  Head Start began as a six weeks summer program for low income three and four year olds to obtain physicals, dental exams, and dental treatment if needed and be up to date with mandated immunizations.  After a couple of years it expanded to Head Start centers, serving children usually eight months each year.  Many programs have Early Head Start also, serving children birth to three.  At three they transition to the regular Head Start program until Kindergarten eligible age.

I have been the Head Start Director since October 1, 1970.  Thirty three years has seen many changes to the program and all have been improvements to services, staff qualifications and facility constructions.  Our program is a data driven program.  We use software called PROMIS to track all services, and a reporting process called the Program Information Report (PIR) to report on those services at the end of year to the National Head Start office in May each year. 

This is a federally funded program.  We are funded to serve 272 children ages 3 to Kindergarten age at 8 Head Start centers in Avoyelles parish. Of those 272 children we currently have about 30 who have defined disabilities.  That means they have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in place prior to enrollment.  Usually these children are referred to us by the Special Education Section of the Avoyelles Parish Public School System.  Whenever we have a drop in enrollment at any center, the Family Service Specialist from our program contacts the school system to inform them we have a slot available at a certain center and inquire if they have a child in that area with an IEP who needs services.  If so that child has top priority for the slot.  If not, we go to the waiting list and select the child from a family who meets the income guidelines of Head Start.  The Special Education services for our children are provided by the guidelines of Head Start.  The services provided to children with special needs are provided by the local public school system.   Children with IEP's in place receive their services in the Head Start center by Special education staff from the school system.  Children referred to them by our staff are screened, evaluated, and receive services at the Head Start centers.  Children with severe behavior problems are observed by our own Disability/Mental Health Specialist.  If the the child's IEP team determines that the condition requires a child specific aide, the Head Start program, within our budget, will hire a person to provide additional support for the child three half days per week so that teacher and teacher aide can focus on the other children to ensure they are Kindergarten ready.  We have purchased 8 changing tables to take care of children who are not completely potty trained yet. 

All children are taught using Creative Curriculum for Pre-School.  We evaluate the children three times each year and enter the data into Teaching Strategies Gold.  Results are aggregated to help identify trends.  Changes are made to the lesson plans so that we can bring the children up to the national average in areas that indicate they need improvement in.  A report is generated by the Teaching Strategies Gold on each child so that there can be a Parent/Teacher meeting to discuss the results, what we are going to do to improve the child's cognitive skills and also give the parent a list of activities they can  use to help their child at home to improve the areas that we found needed improvement.

 

 

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