Federal cuts affect local Head Start program

The automatic spending cuts enacted by the federal government--known as sequestration--began earlier this year, in which Head Start programs across the nation were impacted. And during the Monday night meeting of the SISD (Sweetwater Independent School District) Board of Trustees, Superintendent Terry Pittman addressed the local program as part of his monthly report.With an almost 6% budget cut, Sweetwater ISD is a big part of the Head Start/Early Head Start program within Region 14. As a result of the losses, employees from Region 14 will be helping with various local duties.On the other hand, the local program has seen a slight decrease of enrollment. Because of the local economic growth, some parents have been able to obtain higher-paying jobs, which eliminates them from being eligible for participation in Head Start.But as a result of the two factors, the situation has almost resolved itself. And although a waiting list is required by the federal government, the district plans on serving as many kids as possible. However, Head Start classes will decrease in number next year from six to four classes. Additionally, Early Head Start classes will be cut from seven to six.Also during the report, the board discussed the possibility of hiring an HR/PR director, an idea posed at the previous meeting. Campus principals were recently polled on the need of hiring a behavioral specialist, and the campus leadership group has also talked about the idea while examining the successes within other schools.Southeast Elementary has assisted with the addition of a counselor, while the middle school implements OCS (on-campus suspension) and Sweetwater High School uses DAEP (disciplinary alternative education program) measures.Other programs which have seen success with behavior include Pitt Stop at SIS (Sweetwater Intermediate School) and Grand Central Station at SMS (Sweetwater Middle School). However, some sort of program would need to be implemented at East Ridge for second and third grade students so that all campuses could be covered.In the meantime, a survey for staff and students has been distributed so that the district can learn from the survey as well as the from campus leadership team on what direction to take.