Parents who oversee the Head Start program in Carroll County schools have rejected a budget-cutting proposal that would mean losing longtime program coordinator Linda Ebersole and dividing her duties among other administrators.
"When they came into our meeting and gave us that proposal, I and the other parents wouldn't sign off on it," said RoseAnn Fischer of Sykesville, one of six parents on the Head Start Policy Council.
She said the parents believe Ms. Ebersole has brought the program to great success. Losing her and dividing her duties among people who can't devote the same amount of time would undo that work, Ms. Fischer said.
"If you say Head Start, you see Linda Ebersole," Ms. Fischer said. "She's the Head Start Lady. She's gotten more parent involvement. If there was a meeting and you couldn't get there, she'd pick you up and take you. And she enjoyed it."
Although the school system administers the federal Head Start program in the county, the budget has to be approved by the advisory council. So administrators are going back to the drawing board before the program's fiscal year begins.
"We have to take care of it by April 1," said Gregory Eckles, director of curriculum for the county schools. "What we're going to do is provide them with more information."
The problem is that although the federal government will provide $446,000 in the next school year for Head Start, it will cost $30,000 to $40,000 more to continue the program with the existing staff, Dr. Eckles said.
The staff includes seven classroom teachers and three administrators, all paid through the teacher contract.
Dr. Eckles attributed the high costs of the program to teacher salaries and benefits, which are based on a negotiated contract and are more than the grant will cover. In many other places, Head Start is administered by private agencies not bound by union teacher salaries, he said.
The grant contains enough money for eight professional positions. Dr. Eckles and other school officials have tried to save all seven classroom teacher positions and to have county school administrators pick up some of the responsibilities of two of the administrative jobs.
Ms. Ebersole's duties could be divided between a member of the special education staff and Pam Ayres, supervisor of early childhood education, which includes Head Start.
Ms. Fischer said those two departments already are overburdened and would be unable to provide the kind of parent support and home visits that Ms. Ebersole provides.
Head Start helps students who are economically disadvantaged or have disabilities by giving them the kind of kindergarten preparation that more privileged children get in nursery school or from their parents. The federal program also works with parents, training them to be more effective with their children and to pursue their own education or job goals.
Ms. Fischer said the program gave her the self-confidence to go to college. She is pursuing an associate's degree in early childhood education at Carroll Community College.
Ms. Fischer said the schools should find the money to keep Head Start going as it is, or at least to keep Ms. Ebersole as a coordinator.
"They found the money for the instrumental music program; now let's find money for Head Start," she said. Elementary instrumental music was threatened by budget cuts for next year but was saved after an outcry.
Pub Date: 3/07/96