Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Wyden’s committee on Head Start: Programs will work best in close proximity

Report says Head Start services would be more fiscally responsible if they located next to each other
News Editor
   April 16, 2003 — The local ad hoc committee formed by Senator Ron Wyden has completed its review of the three Head Start programs in Madras, recommending the continued cooperation between the entities.
    More specifically, the committee recommends the federally funded Oregon Child Development Coalition and the state-funded Children’s Learning Center form a “common campus service center” together.
    The Oregon Child Development, known as OCDC, already is taking steps to move across the street from the Children’s Learning Center in northeast Madras near Mountain View Hospital.
    In one alternative, the committee, comprised of eight local residents, suggests the two entities acquire the remaining parcel of land east of OCDC’s new facility. It also suggests the two Head Start providers ask the city of Madras to vacate A Street between them and use Kinkade as their primary access route, thereby alleviating the traffic concerns raised by neighbors.
    The parties would then own more than seven acres together, which would accommodate the need for future child-care facilities, the committee stated in its report to Sen. Wyden, D-Ore.
    “The things that strike me is that everyone agreed that if Head Start services were going to be provided, we wanted them done in the most fiscally responsible way possible,” said Judge George Nielson, who represented the Bean Foundation on the committee.
    In a second alternative, the committee suggests OCDC and the Children’s Learning Center could construct two new buildings on a common campus somewhere else, or two wings in one building. However, the committee noted this alternative could be “problematic” due to resources and because they’d have to abandon their current assets.
    “I think the campus idea is ideal, regardless of where it’s at,” said Mick Goss, a Madras City Councilor serving on the committee. “They typically serve the same kids during different times of the year.”
    Wyden formed the group late last year amid the height of public controversy regarding OCDC’s application for a building permit next to the Children’s Learning Center. The committee, chaired by Father Jim Stephens and Camile Harris, set out to examine the three Head Starts’ services and determine whether those could be delivered more efficiently.
    Although many residents questioned OCDC’s choice of location, and criticized it for what many perceived would be a duplication of services, the committee ultimately concluded placing the it by the Children’s Learning Center would give the organizations the best opportunity to share resources and streamline expenses.
    The committee’s 10-page report, which soon will be posted on Wyden’s Web site (http://wyden.senate.gov), applauds the Head Start providers’ for their “modest” cooperation and states the members believe the need for more services will only increase.
    Geoff Stuckart, a Wyden spokesman, said his office is planning an upcoming meeting with the committee to discuss how to move forward with its recommendations. Staff members of Sen. Gordon Smith, D-Ore., and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., also will be invited.
    “Their goal of operating things more efficiently is a goal we can all share,” Stuckart said of the committee’s recommendation.
    The Wilsonville-based OCDC operates both migrant and seasonal Head Start programs from January through the end of May with federal dollars. The state-funded, Madras-based Children’s Learning Center delivers services though most of the year with peak capacity from September through May. The Hood River-based Mid-Columbia Head Start also operates from September through May, but with federal funding.
    The committee recommends the three entities perform joint community needs assessment studies — projects that help determine what children need Head Start, and how many.
    It also suggests OCDC and the Children’s Learning Center, specifically, continue developing cooperative programs “for transportation, parking, food services, expert services, training, recreation and child program services.”
    “They can combine services if they’re in close proximity,” said County Commissioner Mary Zemke.
    The committee encourages Wyden’s office to review Head Start eligibility guidelines to determine whether they can be extended to a more “broad composition” of low-income families in Jefferson County.