NEON to re-open ‘School Readiness’ program Wednesday

The Rev. Tommie Jackson announced Tuesday that NEON's School Readiness program would be up and running Wednesday through Friday at the Ely and Franklin schools.
The Rev. Tommie Jackson announced Tuesday that NEON’s School Readiness program would be up and running Wednesday through Friday at the Ely and Franklin schools.

This story has been significantly updated as of 1:24 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20)

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk families who had been dependent upon the Head Start program for child care will get some help starting today (Nov. 20), as Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) re-opens its School Readiness program at the Ben Franklin Center and the Nathaniel Ely School.

The announcement was made by NEON interim CEO and President Rev. Tommie Jackson via an emailed press release.

Also, NEON Board of Directors Chairman Mike Berkoff said it is his understanding that Community Development Institute (CDI), the Colorado-based company designated by the federal Administration for Children and Families to operate Head Start on an interim basis, has been given the green light to use the Benjamin Franklin and Nathaniel Ely spaces. He said he believes CDI is putting the staff together and will be up and running soon.

NEON’s School Readiness program will be open at both locations during regular hours of operation, from 7:30 am to 5:30 p.m., according to the announcement. Six classrooms will be open at Nathaniel Ely School accommodating 119 children, while two classrooms will be open at Ben Franklin Center to provide child care services for 37 children.

Berkoff could not give a concrete answer about when day care programs for younger children might be open.

“We’re working to restore program by program as we are getting in the appropriate funds and we’re cleaning up management and the accountability of all the systems within NEON,” Berkoff told NancyOnNorwalk in a Tuesday night phone interview. “The money that we are using is (federal) money owed to NEON that was not collected. It is funds that are non-allocated – they are discretionary funds, basically money that we found that was not billed.”

Berkoff said the program will be open Wednesday through Friday and the employees will be paid on Friday.

“We have funds and people will get paid,” he said. “It has been our intention from Day 1 to make sure that all employees are made whole, that all the taxes and insurance that we withheld that weren’t paid at the appropriate time will all be paid by the first week of December.”

NEON’s contract to run the Head Start program remains under the suspension that was announced Oct. 24 after a series of contract violations involving child safety and financial matters spurred ACF to take action.

The Rev. Jackson, speaking on behalf of the agency, said in Tuesday’s statement, “NEON’s board and management deeply regret the impact that the closure of our child care programs at Ben Franklin and Nathaniel Ely school have had on hundreds of families in our community. However, steps have been taken to ensure that best practices are followed to prevent similar inconveniences in the future.

“The staff of the School Readiness program will receive salaries for this week on Friday, Nov. 22,” Jackson said, “as NEON’s new management team works to secure the funds necessary to make employees whole for past compensation due.”

NEON missed its payroll two weeks ago, and checks issued to many employees bounced. State Sen. Bob Duff and at least one local business have publicly spoken of potential criminal investigations.

State Sen. Bob Duff responded to a NancyOnNorwalk inquiry at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’ve been informed, late this evening, by NEON that they intend to open up School Readiness programs tomorrow morning,” Duff said. “In addition, I’ve learned that the state Office of Early Childhood as well as the state Department of Public Health will be present to monitor the program. It has been represented to me that the program will be funded by sources other than state funding.”

Berkoff said that, based on the last conversation he had with CDI, “They got their appropriate licensing and they were interviewing staff. I don’t know when they will be opening.”

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said Tuesday night that he his hopeful Head Start is getting ready to reopen.

““We’ve been in conversations with Rev. Jackson and we’ve been in conversations with the state of Connecticut and the federal government,” Rilling said, “… and we are cautiously optimistic” that Head Start will open by the end of this week or beginning of next week.”

Questions about the operation of Norwalk Head Start should be directed to the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Public Affairs, (202) 401-9215.


19 responses to “NEON to re-open ‘School Readiness’ program Wednesday”

  1. The Norwalker

    It should be noted that NEON lost another State Funded Program today mainly because Senior Management never return calls from the Funding Source. NEON always seems to be one step forward, two steps backward.

  2. M Allen

    Will this in any way, shape or form get in the way of CDI reopening Head Start?

  3. Lynn

    Glad to see that School Readiness Program will be up and running on Wednesday. Now what will happen to the youngest children (toddlers) and teachers that are funded through The Department of Social Services. I have seen plenty of articles discussing the fate of head start and heave not heard anything about the toddler programs. What happens to them? Where will these young children go? Are the toddler teachers and children just left abandoned with no answers or resolution.

  4. Ms. M

    It’s nice to hear they are trying to correct what prior management have done however their is no excuse for the way we as the paying parents have been treated. Program gets shut down with no notice, no calls have been made to any of the parents informing us what is going on. How is this acceptable? If we do not pay our fees our child gets sent home so what is the consequence for them inconveniencing the parents?…could they not pick up the phone and make a call? They have all of our numbers and they have people working in the offices with NOpay…. unacceptable. My child will not return..they have a lot of make up to do to show that they can stand to be called an accredited DayCare/PreSchool….

  5. Meeting of Solutions

    Tommie Jackson meet Paul Tudor Jones.
    Mr Jones meet Mr Jackson.
    fyi Tommie, Paul’s number is;
    212-227-6601 or

  6. Don’t Panic

    Are we to understand that all of the safety deficiencies have been resolved and that they are properly licensed now?
    Will the salaries be drawn on the “new” Citibank account. Where are these funds coming from. I understand the relief of parents that there is now somewhere to place their children, but the lack of transparency with regard to this bit of magic is not encouraging.

  7. AS QUOTED BY DUFF ” It has been represented to me that the program will be funded by sources other than state funding.”
    WHO IS PAYING???????????????
    TRANSPARENCY TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Irish Girl

      We have spoken with Mike Berkoff and have additional info and will have it online a bit later. We are two people reporting on a board of ed situation, common council meeting and NEON. Patience.

  8. ScopeonNorwalk

    Craziness…3.5 million dollar debt and allowed to accrue more. What’s crazier is the people that continue to “work” for them. I will not defend anyone “working” for NEON at this point when it is public knowledge that they are 3.5 million in debt and owe 1 month pay to several former employees.

  9. The Norwalker

    This week NEON has lost more State Funded Programs because up to the end NEON Management did not open communications with the state. How is the granting of Connecticut funds to a out of state organization in anyway a win?

  10. Don’t Panic

    All due respect…this information should have been providedwith the press release. It shoudn’t be up to you for an agency under suspension to be forthcoming about their funding fixes. Quite frankly, nobody who had checks bounced should be working until they are made whole when it is ynclear where the mythical Federal funds have come from.
    Also, many of the safety conditions cited in the Head Start suspension were as a result of vendors not being paid. Have they begun providing those services again on promises of being made whole, or are these kids going back into the same environments ?

  11. The Norwalker

    Hi Don’t Panic

    Seems logical that NEON could not pay those vendors without the Headstart funds from the city and Mayor Moccia had to realize that without those funds that NEON could not properly provide for those children!

  12. dawn

    I want to know the name of every management person at NEON.
    i want to kow their relationship to other.
    i want to know what wonderful new accounting system NEON has that they were able to discover that they were owed money.
    if in fact there is wonderful new accounting system when willNEON be informing the public ablout hwat happened to the “mishandled” money.
    i expect that they should be able to proceed with criminal prosecutions now?

  13. Tearful Humble One

    ..you need a lesson on respect for elective official.

  14. Casey Smith

    “The money that we are using is (federal) money owed to NEON that was not collected. It is funds that are non-allocated – they are discretionary funds, basically money that we found that was not billed.”
    Uh, so who is paying the light bill for Ben Franklin and Nathaniel Ely?
    And why weren’t the federal funds collected earlier? Usually, when organizations start having financial problems, they start “scrubbing” accounts, making sure that all the funding, particularly unencumbered funding, is used up.
    I’m glad that the childcare is being provided, but there are probably a number of vendors who are waiting in line with their unpaid bills in hand.

  15. M Allen

    yeah how exactly is funding available to pay to reopen anything when all vendors, payroll checks, and that check cashing shop that cashed paychecks that bounced, havent been made whole? It’s too early for NEON to be getting back to business.

  16. Don’t Panic

    Seriously. Are there now first aid kits, a sink drain that no longer clogs? Food being delivered? Are those conditions only a requirement for Head Start?

  17. @Tearful,
    Why? He doesn’t deserve it. He left these people out to dry. He is in the higher office and has the contacts but because he was on the board with Mann and Morris, he dragged his feet all these years (unless there was a photographer around).
    Just because he is an elected “official” doesn’t mean he is guaranteed respect – you EARN respect….

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