When a parent has children who are success stories of the Head Start program, as were mine, the parent becomes a life-long champion for the program. I watched the Head Start Policy Council meeting held on August 8 with great dismay. The number of inaccuracies that were quoted as fact were overwhelming. Determining which misstatement was most egregious is an impossible task. While there were multiple Policy Council members present for the meeting, it was apparent that Chairwoman Shirley Layton and Dr. Gloria Smith were using the meeting as a platform for advancing their own personal agendas. I was not surprised to read a story online posted by a Shreveport T.V. station that Councilwoman Patsy Ward Hoover has her fingerprints all over this debacle.
Knowledge is power. That being said, there is a huge difference between being able to read and comprehending what you read. I’ll gladly admit that I can read a scientific journal on astrophysics but I probably would not have a clue about what was being discussed.
Clearly, Ms. Layton and Dr. Smith do not comprehend the Home Rule Charter, State Statutes, portions of the Head Start Act and the Fair Standards Labor Act. Section 3-10(10) of the Home Rule Charter gives the Parish President the authority to appoint, suspend, discipline or remove for just cause all parish government employees. The Parish Council is the legislative branch of the government and is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the Parish.
At the Policy Council meeting, Dr. Smith berated the Parish’s human resource representative about the teachers having to put in extra time on one Saturday for parent orientation and had the audacity to compare it to slave labor. Dr. Smith should educate herself before she speaks and I personally think she owes the H. R. representative an apology. Anyone can go online and read the FLSA, which states in 29 USC 213(a)(1) that teachers are exempt from the overtime requirements. Dr. Smith also claimed that the threshold for the minimum salary for exempt employees had been raised in 2016. She is correct that a rule was issued, but the rule has never taken effect. In fact, the Department of Labor released a Request for Information on July 25th which, in essence, starts the whole process of revising the overtime rule all over again.
“…The rule hasn’t taken effect because of a federal court injunction. In June, the DOL announced that it had decided not to defend the rule in court….”
Perhaps the most egregious misstatements made at the meeting were those on the authority of the Policy Council and the make-up of the Governing Body, which includes the Parish President, whether they like it or not.
While the Governing Body develops the procedures for how members of the Policy Council are selected, certain Policy Council members were arbitrarily “voted off” of the Council because they would not advance a certain agenda. The Head Start Standards also stipulate that the Policy Council is responsible for the direction of the Head Start Program, including program design and operation, but the Standards do not give the Policy Council authority to run the program. In fact, the Standards clearly state that the Governing Body shall have legal and fiscal responsibility for the Head Start agency.
You cannot claim that you care about the children of Head Start while using them as a political pawn. Ms. Layton, Dr. Smith and Mrs. Hoover should be ashamed of themselves and they are doing our Parish a great disservice.
J. R. “Randy” Stelly
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