Mandan News

Letter to the editor: Head Start forced to make cuts

If you have been following the sequester, you know that many federally funded programs, including Head Start, have been faced with tough decisions regarding their impending 2013 fiscal year budgets. West River Head Start is no different; we have been given a 5.27 percent reduction of funds that will reduce next year’s operating budget by approximately $75,000.

As a program we have looked into every viable option to make these cuts, and continue the quality of service that West River Head Start is known for. We have decided the most fiscally efficient, but drastic, in the terms of services provided was to close a classroom. This option includes cutting our supply and travel budget slightly, cutting two full-time staff members (a teacher and paraprofessional), and closing a rural classroom for the 2013-14 school year.  This option was ultimately chosen by the HIT Board of Directors, WRHS Policy Council, the WRHS leadership team, and me; our Beulah classroom, sadly, was the classroom that was decided on to be closed.

The reasons Beulah was chosen were not because lack of support from the Beulah School District and community, or lack of participation from parents and staff. On the contrary, we have found nothing but support, dedication and respect from everyone in Beulah; the decision was based on pure logistics and community dynamics.

When I say “logistics and community dynamics” I must clarify by saying Beulah has proximity with another one of our centers: Hazen. The Hazen community is slightly smaller, has slightly less services for children than Beulah and is centrally located in our service area of Mercer and Oliver counties. The central location of Hazen makes it ideal to support both communities that have children at or below the poverty line. Although we serve many families from many socio-economic backgrounds, it is important to remember what Head Start is for: helping children and their families get out of poverty. Also, it is important to note, even though we are closing the Beulah classroom we will still offer the same services to children and families that qualify for Head Start and that live in Beulah; we will simply bus Beulah children to our Hazen classroom located in the Hazen Elementary School.

The staff of West River Head Start and I want all to know that we have done everything in our power to stop this last resort action from happening – we have drafted and supported funding bills that were presented at the 2013 legislative session, contacted community agencies, investigated additional grant opportunities and created and reworked, a multitude of budget options.

I would like to thank all who supported our Beulah Head Start classroom throughout the years. We have appreciated the hospitality and the warm, caring culture Beulah has provided, and is well known for. We also hope that we will soon have the opportunity to open up a classroom there again in the future.

-Joey Kolosky, West River Head Start Director