The Natchitoches Parish Journal submitted a request for answers that have been asked by our readers regarding the Head Start program in Natchitoches Parish. We received a response today from Rick Nowlin, Parish President. We are posting his response to each question here:
QUESTION 1: Why was teacher pay cut?
RESPONSE: Head Start pay was reduced during the spring of 2014 in an effort to bring the total cost of HS payroll and benefits below the 80% threshold set by the federal government.
QUESTION 2: Why is NSU center not allowed to take field trips?
RESPONSE: The decision on whether to take or not to take field trips lies with the administration of the HS program. The Director, Ms. Judie Barnum, is the person to whom this question should be directed.
QUESTION 3: Facility updates? Outdated computer software?
RESPONSE: Under the new facility maintenance plan, the NSU center has received a greater degree of Parish maintenance support than in recent years. We are not aware of any major facility updates, but will continue to address routine maintenance issues as they are brought to our attention. As far as computer software is concerned, we will ask Mr. Donnie Hyams, parish computer tech, to check out the software for possible replacement. The program purchased several new computers under the last grant, but we do not know if any of them were for the NSU center.
QUESTION 4: Teachers serving meals?
RESPONSE: We understand that teachers assist in the serving of meals because there are no food service employees at some centers and some centers do not have a separate dining area.
QUESTION 5: Parent notice of Parish Council votes on HS policies?
RESPONSE: The agenda of Parish Council meetings is issued in advance of each meeting so that interested persons can see what will be considered at meetings. The HS program Policy Council shares some oversight responsibility of the program and considers its position on proposed program policies.
QUESTION 6: Employment of next HS director?
RESPONSE: The next director of the Parish Head Start program will be selected in accordance with federal regulations, state law and the Parish Home Rule Charter. The authority to select the director rests with the local governing authority which is the Parish of Natchitoches. Under the HRC, the Parish President has the responsibility to hire all employees of the Parish. The process to select the next director will begin very soon as time is short before the present director will be retiring.
QUESTION 7: How is annual budget determined?
RESPONSE: The annual budget is developed jointly by the Director of the Head Start program and the Parish government. The input of the Director is needed due to the Director’s experience with the program and familiarity with federal regulations. The input of the Parish is needed because of the knowledge of Parish and HS program finances. All concerned must develop the budget in accordance with federal regulations.
QUESTION 8: Paying City employees to work for the HS program?
RESPONSE: The Parish of Natchitoches does not prohibit its employees from holding other jobs as long as the other job does not interfere with the employee’s job duties. We recognize that part-time employees of the Head Start program may have employment through other businesses or organizations.
QUESTION 9: Why doesn’t the city invest cash in head start instead of in-kind services?
RESPONSE: The City does not make any investment in the HS program. It is a Parish program. The Parish uses in-kind services to meet the match required by federal regulations. These in-kind services include, but are not limited to, financial, administrative and maintenance services. By providing in-kind services, the Parish is able to avoid using its limited cash in the program.