North Early Learning Center’s Head Start program has earned the highest possible rating from the Head Start Federal Review Board, earning the rating of “Full Compliance” and a Gold Certificate.

“I like to call ours the best pre-school in Texas. This award and rating certainly substantiates that,” Dr. O. Taylor Collins, WO-C Superintendent of Schools, said.

“Preschool is a foundation of schooling and is very important for the betterment of social and educational deficits based in socio-economics some young children bring when entering kindergarten,” he said.

The Administration for Children and Families – Office of Head Start conducts an on-site five-day Federal Review of Head Start Programs once every three years to ensure that Head Start Programs are providing “high quality” services based on the federal performance standards.

North Early Learning Center’s Head Start Program’s federal review occurred in January 2008.

North ELC Principal/Head Start Director Sheila Perry said, “The Head Start Program encompasses 18 content areas including education, health and nutrition services, mental health/disabilities, family services, human resources, fiscal management, transportation, as well as planning and governance to name a few.  Each content area has multiple federal performance standards that must be met.”

The criterion for compliance in all areas is implementation of the standards in a manner that ensures that children and families in our service area are receiving high quality services that meet their unique needs.

“These needs of the children and families are determined annually through the completion of surveys, parent questionnaires and a Community Assessment.  The information that is gathered is used to tailor the program to the needs of the children and families we serve making changes to the program as indicated by the data collected,” Perry said.

The review team bases their determination of compliance or noncompliance on the review of program documents; interviews with staff, Policy Council members, School Board members, and Community Representatives; as well as, observations in the classroom, inspection of the playground, facility and transportation services.

“This accomplishment could not have been possible without the full support of our grantee, West Orange – Cove CISD. Our School Board members and the Policy Council provide excellent oversight of the program and made themselves available through the week the federal review for interviews and support.

“I would also like to thank and acknowledge our Superintendent, Dr. Collins, the district’s administrative staff, program directors, and support personnel for taking the time to become familiar with the Head Start program’s federal requirements and working diligently, on a daily basis, with the Head Start staff to administer the program in accordance with the Head Start Standards,” Perry said.

Full compliance is achieved by only 25 percent of the nation’s Head Start programs.
“The validation of ‘a job well done’ from our federal review team means a lot to us.  Our main goal is to remove any barrier that may prevent a child from being successful once they enter elementary school, full compliance of the Head Start federal standards gives us the assurance that they will succeed,” she said.

She said preparation for a Head Start federal review must take place on a daily basis, throughout the year through a strong system of on-going monitoring and planning for continuous improvement. Services provided to children and families are tracked and monitored regularly in accordance with federal requirements to ensure compliance.
The program also conducts an Annual Self-Assessment to identify areas of strengths and needs and develops a Program Improvement Plan to address the any area of need identified through the process.

“Although we were confident that our program was in full compliance because we work very hard to ensure the provision of high quality services on a daily basis, we were not sure that the federal review team would agree with our interpretation of the standards and the manner in which we are implementing them.”

“The staff has a thorough understanding of the intent of Head Start and is constantly looking for ways to enhance the program in every way.  The instructional staff is just as concerned about the dental, social and family needs of the children as they are about their academic needs.  They realize that unless we serve the ‘whole’ child we have not met the child’s needs,” she said.

The Head Start Program was the only program housed at North that was reviewed by the Federal Head Start team.  However, the Pre-kindergarten, Universal Pre-kindergarten and the Pre-School Program for Children with Disabilities comply with many of the Head Start standards and the staff works just as hard to provide quality services on a daily basis.

The Universal Pre-Kindergarten program provides pre-kindergarten opportunities to children whose families do not meet Head Start income guidelines.

“Thanks to our Board of Trustees, our universal preschool program allows young children from upper socio-economic families to participate in the program. Research shows that both groups of students benefit from the opportunity to learn and grow together,” Dr. Collins said.

North ELC is comprised of a staff of 68 which includes teachers and support staff.
“The entire staff at North does an exceptional job and are to be commended for their commitment to excellence and dedication to the children and families they serve,” Perry said.