Toledo Public Schools (TPS)
and Pittsburgh-based Brightside Academy will split some
$13 million in federal Head Start funding to serve an estimated
1,600 children across Lucas County with a preschool program and
a new-to-Toledo initiative called Early Head Start, which
focuses on children between birth and three years of age.
The TPS share of the five-year grant will be $8.1 million. TPS
partnered with the Lucas County Family Council, which
will assist with Early Head Start, and WSOS, a
community action agency that has run Head Start in four
Northwest Ohio counties since the federal preschool program’s
inception in 1965.
The TPS portion of the grant will
to serve 1,126 children. Brightside Academy will receive
just under $5 million to serve an additional 455 children. The
aim is to better prepare TPS students and other children for
kindergarten. The revised program will begin in August.
“The best intervention is prevention—by getting involved with
our students at an early age,” said Dr. Romules Durant,
“We needed to stem the tide of a lack of preparedness that some
students, because of their economic situation, just didn’t have
the access to the preschool advantages of some of their peers in
other parts of the community have,” said Dr. Cecelia Adams,
TPS board president.
Dr. Durant indicated school district officials would meet with
Brightside Academy representatives in mid-June to
determine which entity would serve which zip codes in the
county. Dr. Durant stated TPS invited Brightside to join
its proposal for competitive funding, but the privately-owned
education company declined.
Head Start programs won’t be located just at TPS schools or
central-city facilities. WSOS will provide other school
districts will have at least one site for income-eligible
preschoolers, including Washington Local, Maumee, and
will work with infants, toddlers, and pregnant mothers. TPS will
locate Head Start sites at the Summit Street YMCA,
existing TPS preschools, and several elementary schools, such as
McTigue. Another 200 students will attend private
child-care providers that qualified by
having at least three stars in the
Step Up to Quality state ranking system.
The collaborative Head Start model will offer “wraparound”
services, including healthy meals and medical care for Lucas
County’s children, as well as education for parents so they can
take steps towards self-sufficiency.
Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) put in a competitive
bidding process for Head Start in 2011, which placed former
provider Economic Opportunity Planning Association (EOPA)
against TPS. However, neither group’s proposal was selected.
selected Denver-based Community Development Institute (CDI)
to run Head Start during a second round of bidding. CDI plans to
lay off most of its 280 employees by the end of July. TPS, WSOS,
and Family Council officials plan to hire about 110 people over
“We’ve been trying to get the Head Start grant since 2011 and
politics got in the way,” said TPS board member Lisa Sobecki.
Preschool teachers to be hired will be required to have at least
a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and assistant
teachers must have at least an associate’s degree in early
“We do that because we believe the children who qualify or Head
Start are the most at-risk and, statistically, have the most to
lose,” said Dr. Amy Allen, a UT professor who will head
TPS preschool and special education programs. “They need and
deserve the best we have to offer and that is what we intend to
The TPS-based collaborative will be part of an HHS pilot
project, which expands Head Start from birth to five years. The
program will serve children longer, but fewer will be accepted
into the program. TPS board members lamented that 7,000 kids are
eligible for Head Start programming in Lucas County, but the
majority won’t be served.
“We’re going to have to pick and choose, through eligibility
requirements, as to who gets to take advantage of this
opportunity,” said Bob Vásquez, TPS board member. “It’s
bothersome to me there are so many children not able to be
afforded this opportunity.”
Dr. Durant indicated meetings already are set up in search of
more community-based funding to serve more children. Some TPS
board members also raised concerns over whether the district’s
general fund would have to be tapped in order to provide Head
Start services. The superintendent admitted that could be a
possibility at a future date.
“We have a collective problem that is going to take a collective
solution and a collective effort of multiple agencies to come to
this solution and have a collective impact,” he said.
“We should be
looking toward universal pre-K across the county,” said TPS
member Polly Taylor-Gerken.