Local Head Start board could be stuck with $500K bill - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Local Head Start board could be stuck with $500K bill

July 13, 2004

Albany-- At Head Start of Albany's Tift Center, a few employees took applications for students.

But when the centers reopen in August, there will be new management. The board gave up control of its $5 million federal grant.

"Because some of the expenditure problems, it was determined this was the best route to make sure services aren't interrupted to the students and children serviced by Head Start," said Board Chairman Christopher Pike.

Mismanagement of the budget left Head Start behind with their bills.

"The preliminary numbers, I'm not going to speculate what it is. We will not know until the end of the fiscal year, which is October. The total amount is not known," he said.

Federal officials say it could be as much as $500,000.

Regardless of the debt, the centers will stay open. But the summer program at the Harvey Road site ended abruptly Monday. The federal grant only pays for 180 days of service to children.

"That starts in August and ends in May. So that program was not a head start program that ended."

But the letter that informed parents was on Head Start letter head and written by a Head Start manager. Pike wouldn't say where the money came from for summer services.

There's good news for employees though. Most of them will keep their jobs.

But the future is uncertain for Executive Director Eliza Spurling. On Monday, Pike said he thought she had resigned. Tuesday the answer was different.

"I don't know the status of that at this point. She has not been terminated by the board."

She has turned in her keys, but is being paid while on administrative leave. Ultimately, the company taking over will make the decision about her job, while they work to straighten out money problems holding back an organization meant for helping children.

Head Start board members volunteer their time to help the program. Pike refuses to give us the names of the five board members.

posted at 11:40 p.m. by brannon.stewart@walb.com

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