Another team of investigators to probe Head Start program
A federal team of investigators is in McKenzie this week to look at the embattled Head Start program that serves children from low-income families in 13 West Tennessee counties.
Debra Pruitt of the Chicago office, Administration for Children and Family Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is leading a team assembled from a large national pool.
West Tennessee Head Start is a subsidiary of the nonprofit Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council, also based in McKenzie.
NWTEDC is governed by a board of directors that includes Weakley County Mayor Patrick Houston, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire and Lake County Mayor Macie Roberson.
NWTEDC executive director John Bucy said the feds use “a nationally standardized monitoring protocol” and visit each Head Start program once each three years “to look at all aspects of the performance standards.”
“They are working out of the Head Start central office (in McKenzie), the agency office in Dresden, and they’ll visit numerous classrooms and offices within the 13-county service area,” he said.
The current probe is the third since three Head Start employees — characterized as “whistleblowers” — alleged a plethora of complaints about the program.
A probe by a Union City accounting firm resulted in several findings of noncompliance and recommendations for correction. A probe by a federal team found 19 instances of noncompliance with established law, rules and regulations.
Roberson appointed a task force to look into the allegations of noncompliance. Recommendations for corrective action are being prepared for the Atlanta office of HHS.
“The task force’s work is probably over, but it’s not completely through,” he said. “They answered the questions Atlanta asked, but it has to be brought to the full board and get its concurrence before it’s sent to Atlanta. We take it one step at a time.
“After that, will things start happening? I’m not going to say.”
Published in The Messenger 1.15.08