One month after the Lorain County Community Action Agency announced it was closing its Oberlin Head Start center, the organization announces more changes to its federally-funded early childhood education program.
The changes mean 25 people now serving as assistant teachers could be laid off.
Jackie Boehnlein, president and CEO of LCCAA, said the program is being restructured to raise the level of instruction in the classroom and professional teacher development in the program. Effective Aug. 1, Head Start will move to a model with two head teachers in one classroom. The current model has one head teacher and one assistant teacher in each room.
The difference between a head teacher and assistant teacher comes down to education levels. Head teachers must have a minimum of an associate degree in early childhood education while an assistant teacher can have a child development associate certificate and be in a program to get the associate degree.
“What we believe and what our resources and research shows is having two qualified teachers in the classroom increases the quality of instruction in the small group and one-on-one instruction levels and enhancing the professional development on the teaching level,” Boehnlein said.
The 25 individuals in the assistant teacher positions received layoff letters this week. Of the 25, 11 people are qualified to be head teachers and will be allowed to apply for those co-teaching positions. The remainder would be eligible based on seniority within the collective bargaining agreement to bump into other positions including home visitor, cook and other employment options.
Boehnlein said it is possible all 25 affected employees could fall into other positions. The assistant teachers are on summer layoff.
The restructuring will not affect teacher-to-student ratios.
Boehnlein said LCCAA’s directly operated centers —Hamilton School in Elyria and Hopkins-Locke Head Start in Lorain — are three-star rated facilities based on the state’s Step Up to Quality rating system. LCCAA has collaborative classes in Lorain and Elyria schools, as well as partnerships with Horizon Activities Center, Little Lighthouse Learning Center and Wellington Schools.
The restructuring is happening at the same time LCCAA deals with two non-compliance issue related to its triennial review from the Office of Head Start.
Boehnlein said LCCAA is not restructuring because of the review. But it was found to be non-compliant for teacher credentials. It has three head teachers out of 24 that do not have the required associate’s degree.
The remaining 21 head teachers have either an associate or bachelor’s degree, she said.
The other non-compliance issue dealt with working of the lease at the Hopkins-Locke Head Start Center. LCCAA has 120 days to come into compliance.
The review uncovered no deficiencies in the program.
“It was actually a very good report,” Boehnlein said. “When they reauthorized the Head Start Act in 2007, Congress created the Designation Renewal System. It really did elevate the level of assessment for programs across the country. The fact that under the new modeling system we came out so favorable really is a reflection of the quality of our program.”