Parish Government relinquishes Head Start

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2-2 vote leaves early childhood program unsure of future

By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

Motel 6

Parish Government will no longer be the grantee for Head Start following a vote at the Parish Council meeting Monday. The agenda item called for the council to consider approving the Head Start five-year grant. Voting yes were Pat Ward Hoover and Rodney Bedgood. Voting no were Russell Rachal and Doug deGraffenreid. Chris Paige abstained because his wife is a Head Start employee.

The motion failed because of the tie vote. Parish Government has been in the process of preparing the grant application for renewal of the Federal Grant but without the resolution of support from Parish Government, there is little chance it will be renewed. Head Start Director Chrishell Metoyer said Head Start will stay in the community but will be under new management. She advertised the grant that was up for bid on a national website. The grant is open to bids from non-profits and schools. Metoyer said one group that is interested wants to combine the local program with one in Pineville and Central Louisiana which would be too large for the local program.

The current grant expires June 30, 2019. She said her concern was that the facility on Martin Luther King Drive is in need of a new roof and whomever gets the grant must address that. She said the program would not leave Natchitoches Parish. Sharon Harris, director of the Office of Community Services of which Head Start is a part, said she was concerned that the program management remain local and there be no interruption of services for the 309 children now enrolled.

There are approximately 55 employees. Harris said there was no reason to send in the application without the local resolution of support. Rachal said he was not against Head Start but felt Parish Government could not meet the needs of the program.

“It will be better served by someone who can,” Rachal said.