Thursday, November 3, 2005

Head Start celebrates 40th year

Staff Writer

ICS Head Start said “thank you” to its stakeholders at a recent luncheon at Annie’s Restaurant. Three employees who have worked 40 years with the corporation were honored at the celebration.

Deputy Director Eloise McClinton expressed gratitude to schools, businesses, and local agencies that have helped ICS over the years financially and through sharing of resources.

Head Start got off the ground in 1965 and today ICS serves 13 counties. McClinton said 3,639 are enrolled in the 3 to 5 age group and 180 in the birth to 3 years age bracket.

ICS is receiving no new funding, McClinton said and has relied on community support to fill the gaps, particularly in the area of transportation.

Since the program began, ICS has worked steadily to educate its teachers, she said.

Today, 213 teachers have degrees - 154 teaching assistants have degrees, 53 have bachelor’s and 37 have master’s diplomas, she said.

“We are making sure we are educated in order to provide education for our children,” McClinton said. “We are helping each other.”

County boards of supervisors have pitched in with funding for school buses and new classrooms.

Next year a 10-classroom facility will open in Oxford and new centers open in Charleston, Byhalia, Coldwater and Senatobia.

ICS is looking for land in Hernando to add another facility, McClinton said.

Norma Strickland, ICS child development director, presented data showing how well ICS youngsters are performing in comparison to national learning profiles.

ICS children are seven percent ahead of the national average in understanding spoken English; two percent under the national average in vocabulary; 19 percent above national average in letter recognition and four percent ahead in early math, Strickland said.

Luvenia Oatis, Early Head Start Director, praised partners for donating curriculum activities and materials for room improvements for children age three and under - materials that help improve classroom environments.

ICS gathers data on these children but does not instruct at that age, she said.

Parent education begins when children are in Early Head Start and includes teaching parents child care and life skills and how to become advocates for the child.

A pregnant mom’s program targets high risk pregnant teens to provide a healthy pregnancy, delivery and healthy newborn environment. Student nurses teach breastfeeding to mothers-to-be.

Fergenia Hood, head of parent involvement, said home visits and conferences promote parent involvement in the progress of the child. Further communication through newsletters and activities that children can do with parents at home improves parent participation in a child’s education, she said.

Parents can further their own education and do volunteer work at ICS centers.

Sixty-two attended the celebration.

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