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Norwalk’s new Head Start provider to teach babies and toddlers, in year-round program

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, center, speaks about the importance of early childhood education Friday at City Hall, as U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) and Connecticut Institute For Communities, Inc. (CIFC) President and CEO James Maloney listen.

NORWALK, Conn. – A Danbury-based non-profit has been awarded the Head Start program for Greater Norwalk and will begin offering services on July 1.

This not only ends the use of an “interim” company to run the program, five years after the now-defunct Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) lost its Head Start contract, but also expands the services to include Early Head Start for the first time here, and year-round classes.

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

“We have had a little bit of volatility,” U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) said during a Friday afternoon press conference, alluding to the rocky road for Norwalk Head Start, after calling Head Start “one of the most successful federally funded programs out there” to help young children who are disadvantaged in some way.

Himes called it “thrilling” that Norwalk will offer Early Head Start now.

Connecticut Institute For Communities, Inc. (CIFC) will provide full-year Head Start and Early Head Start (EHS) services to 156 children from the Norwalk area, including kids from Weston, Wilton, Westport and New Canaan, a press release said.

Early Head Start will serve babies as young as six weeks old to toddlers younger than three, the release said.

“Of the 156-enrollment total, 16 children (infants and toddlers) will be enrolled in Early Head Start, at least 60 children will be enrolled in full-day Head Start (preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds), 20 of whom in the ordinary course will be funded by the State, and up to 80 children will be enrolled in part-day Head Start (preschool). Currently enrolled 3-year-olds will be able to continue their enrollment as 4-year-olds as of September 2018,” the release said. “The program will offer a total of 9 classes. Five classrooms will be located at the Nathaniel Ely Center: 2 EHS classes and 3 full-day HS classes (including the State-funded classroom). The Benjamin Franklin Center will house 4 HS classes, all 4 part-day.”

When NEON lost the contract in 2013, CDI Head Start of Denver – a company that specializes in running programs on an interim basis – took over. The Administration for Children & Families (ACF), Office of Head Start, awarded the contract to the Norwalk Housing Authority but yanked it in December 2015 after being contacted by a whistle blower, and CDI has been running it ever since.

Mayor Harry Rilling emphasized during Friday’s press conference Norwalk’s “cradle to career” approach to education, and talked of reducing the achievement gap with the Head Start program.

The city has made a financial commitment to work with CIFC and is working on the budget now, he said.

The program will have a “somewhat larger” budget than its had, CIFC President and CEO James Maloney said, attributing the ability to offer an all-year program with extended day services to about $100,000 of additional federal money coming out of the recent budget act.

Statistics show that “The longer a child is in Head Start the better they do,” Maloney said.

“Each Head Start preschool class will be staffed by a classroom teacher, assistant teacher and classroom aide (who CIFC Head Start refers to as CDA Specialists). Early Head Start will have a teacher for each group of 4 children, resulting in two teachers per each classroom of 8 children, plus a classroom aid,” the release said, explaining that CDI’s Norwalk employees will be able to apply for the jobs and “will, if qualified, be given preference when all other aspects are deemed equivalent.”

At least half the program’s teachers will hold bachelor’s degrees, the release said.

Maloney in the release called CIFC a “very experienced Head Start/Early Head Start sponsor.”

“There’s no better investment we can make in our kids than to get them started in pre-kindergarten education programs, like Head Start,” U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are quoted as saying I n the release. “We’ve fought hard over the years to expand quality early learning programs throughout Connecticut, and we’re so excited to see Connecticut Institute for Communities help over 150 kids from the greater Norwalk area – including 16 toddlers and infants in the Early Head Start program – benefit from these federal dollars.”

Head Start 18-0504 20180504

News Release – Norwalk Head Start – 5.4.2018

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