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NEON, CDI working out Head Start agreement

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Laila Bravo, the mother of children in the Head Start program at Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON), parts company with a Community Development Institute (CDI) representative Wednesday. Bravo attended a 2-hour-long meeting between CDI and NEON and reports the results are “Good.”

Updated, 3:35 a.m., complete story

NORWALK, Conn. – An agreement is being worked out between an embattled South Norwalk anti-poverty agency and a company that was appointed by the federal government to take over Norwalk’s Head Start operations.

Representatives of Community Development Institute (CDI) and Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) met for about two hours Wednesday afternoon. Union members and NEON parents were also present. NEON interim CEO and president Chiquita Stephenson said they were working out the details of a Memorandum of Understanding for CDI to take over administration of NEON’s Head Start program, to share the space in the Norwalk-owned facilities where Head Start is held now. She could not say when the MoU will be ready to be signed.

CDI was appointed to take over NEON’s Head Start last Thursday by the United States Department of Human Services Administration of Children and Families (ACF). NEON’s Head Start program was suspended by ACF, but the agency refused to turn over its license to CDI.

“When everything initially started we were told that NEON had to relinquish its license,” Stephenson said. “Then, right after that, at the meeting that was held the parents were informed that no, NEON could allow CDI to operate under NEON’s license. Well that wasn’t factual. What is factual is that CDI and NEON can share space with CDI having its own license and NEON having its own license. So that’s the direction that we’re going in. Now we’re just finalizing the pieces that are needed to achieve our outcome.”

Norwalk Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan said Tuesday that the state of Connecticut had reversed its decision regarding the licensing of the program. That reversal would allow the two agencies to share facilities and opened up the door to a resolution of the situation. NEON provides other services beyond Head Start in the same facilities.

Mayor Richard Moccia held a press conference Tuesday urging NEON to sign an MoU under the new circumstances.

ACF’s suspension of NEON’s Head Start program came as something of a surprise, Stephenson said.

“We didn’t know that we were going to get the notice when we got that notice,” she said. “Their processes were when they made a decision it would have been communicated so there would have been a transition plan in place for us to facilitate. From that standpoint, I think it would have been even easier if a process was given and then a time frame could have been done. From our standpoint is no, we are focused on our parents and our families. NEON will facilitate what it needs to do as it pertains to appeals and things of that nature, but we can’t allow that to be the focal point of our families, our working families that need.”

The truth is out, she said.

“At no point was NEON blocking or anything of that nature but we had to do our due diligence,” she said. “As you can see, two different scenarios were told and we’re at a scenario which is factual. Factual scenario: we’re moving forward.”

After the surprise announcement last Thursday, more than 100 parents stormed City Hall looking for Moccia in protest over the abruptly announced Friday closing of the Head Start program. Stephenson ended the protest when she told the parents that NEON would offer daycare Friday.

Laila Bravo, a parent who was one of the leaders of that City Hall protest, was present for Wednesday’s meeting. Her one-word description of the outcome was, “Good.”

“I’m not yelling now,” she said.

Stephenson said details of the arrangement with CDI must be worked out.

“There are a lot of details,” she said. “Facility uses, what’s common, what’s not common. What will NEON pay for, what will they pay for. Your liabilities, your insurance, just going over what the liability is. What the building use is, worker’s compensation, program operation, number of classroom needed, hours of operation. … As much as everybody is saying you can go in there and get that done today we have to make sure we’ve got the legal parameters so you’re fulfilling the will of the state, your facilitating the guidelines.”

Original story –

NORWALK, Conn. – An agreement is being worked out between an embattled South Norwalk anti-poverty agency and a company that was appointed by the federal government to take over Norwalk’s Head Start operations.

Representatives of Community Development Institute (CDI) and Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) met for about two hours Wednesday afternoon. Union members and NEON parents were also present. NEON interim CEO and president Chiquita Stephenson said they were working out the details of a Memorandum of Understanding for CDI to take over administration of NEON’s Head Start program, to share the space in the Norwalk-owned facilities where Head Start is held now. She could not say when the MoU will be ready to be signed.

CDI was appointed to take over NEON’s Head Start last Thursday by the United States Department of Human Services Administration of Children and Families (ACF). NEON’s Head Start program was suspended by ACF, but the agency refused to turn over its license to CDI.

Norwalk Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan said Tuesday that the state of Connecticut had reversed its decision regarding the licensing of the program. That reversal would allow the two agencies to share facilities and opened up the door to a resolution of the situation. NEON provides other services beyond Head Start in the same facilities.

Mayor Richard Moccia held a press conference Tuesday urging NEON to sign an MoU under the new circumstances.

Last Thursday, more than 100 parents stormed City Hall looking for Moccia in protest over the abruptly announced Friday closing of the Head Start program. Stephenson ended the protest when she told the parents that NEON would offer daycare Friday.

Laila Bravo, a parent who was one of the leaders of that City Hall protest, was present for Wednesday’s meeting. Her one-word description of the outcome was, “Good.”

“I’m not yelling now,” she said.

Comments

5 responses to “NEON, CDI working out Head Start agreement”

  1. Norwalk Lifer

    I am glad they worked out an arrangement for the sake of the children and the parents. Hardworking parents who are dependent upon Head Start programs should be satisfied; not the rest of the community who commented and observed this sad situation. There are no winners in this except for the children, let’s work to keep it that way.

  2. Lifelong Teacher

    When I see program improvements, maybe that’s when they should be satisfied. NEON HeadStart is just daycare.

  3. Dawn

    The good thing now is that those in the neon program will be angry when they see a good program being run that their kids can’t get in. Màybe this will force some neon improvements.
    .
    How will things be divided. I hope it is two completely separate programs. Separate be equal.

  4. Norwalk Lifer

    Now that the dust is starting to settle, I see the politicos, like Michael Geake to come riding in on their white horses.

    it’s “Amateur hour” again in Norwalk.

    In fact, it’s so transparent, it’s insulting.

    Leave the negotiations between NEON and CDI, and let the CEO manage the discussion; it’s a good learning curve for her, and let’s not give these “politicians” another political platform to stand on.

    Business managers will work out NEON’s financial wounds, operations managers will work out the planning for services.

    Norwalk doesn’t need Michael Geake to come in now that is “safe to go back into the water”.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  5. Kadie

    Laila also works for NEON. So she is on both sides of this.

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