A Response to the  Continued  Campaign to Malign the CAO

Dear Editor and Greetings Everyone,

The Buffalo News continues to wage its campaign of innuendo and slander against the CAO.

Now the “newspaper” seeks to imply impropriety because the CAO’s Head Start administration used a nationally recognized, highly qualified minority-owned consultant firm to provide portions of its staff development, professional development, accreditation services and parent engagement services over an eleven year period.

Please see our response to this latest Buffalo News effort below:

As always, you and your associates attempt to take something ordinary and make it appear extraordinary and negative. J. Walker Enterprises (JWE) is a staff-development trainer, consultant, parent-engagement trainer, and provider of child-development accreditation certification that Head Start services across the country utilize.

Further, given a $33 million annual Head Start/Early Head Start budget, spending an average of $191,000 a year on training that is crucial to our 600 employees in these programs is smart and effective. If we spent say an average of $25,000 a year on training, you’d write stories saying our staff is insufficiently trained.

Phyllis McBride’s qualifications to lead our Head Start administration are significant. All head administrators of Head Start programs are approved by the federal office of Head Start.

Providing the training, staff and parent development for 600 employees would require an additional standing workforce of people with different skill sets being made available episodically over the course of a year. Working with an outside consultant agency that has a workforce that can be platooned to different programs across the country, that we can schedule at mutually agreeable times, is a more efficient and cost-effective use of our resources.

Over the course of 2009-2020, the CAO contracted with JWE for roughly $2.1 million of staff and parent development services, or about $191,000 average per year, of an annual head start/early head start budget of around $33 million per year. More than $400,000 of that $2.1 million cost was for tuition payments to JWE for enrollments in its Child Development Associate’s certification course in the 2017-2018 year. JWE is not only a highly regarded and qualified vendor of these services, it is also a minority-owned enterprise that provides a large base of in-kind services in support of the work they do.

Our Head Start/Early Head Start program was engaged in a campaign to hire staff with higher credentials to meet Health and Human Services goals, and to help existing staff acquire newly required credentials. JWE demonstrated the ability to help our agency achieve those objectives and our Head Start administrator began working with JWE to pursue those goals.

Our Head Start administration initially contracted with JWE for staff development services that included professional development, a leadership development series with content-area specialists, program re-organization assistance, and the agency’s nomination for a Program of Excellence designation, ultimately received from Gov. Patterson in 2010.

As our Head Start administration worked more with JWE, it discovered JWE’s capabilities were also used by other Head Starts around the country. Our contractual relationship expanded to include staff training and development, education leading to a required Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential, Program Self-Assessment, Family Development Credentialing (FDC), Economic Development, Strategic Planning, Strategic Implementation, Leadership Development, Program Branding, and assistance in grant writing, Policy Council and Board training.

Through the contracts with JWE, the Head Start administration won funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus program; assistance in writing a grant leading to the CAO’s acquisition of the former Niagara County Head Start/Early Head Start 5-year grant; and the 5-year Early Child Care Partnership grant for Erie and Niagara counties, resulting in securing more than $22 million and new grants for child care and staff training and development.

JWE is a nationally utilized staff-training and program-development service organization with 20 years of experience. JWE’s professional development, staff development and parent engagement programs use JWE’s own curriculum, tailored to the needs of the agency being served.    The Head Start Administrator, Ms. McBride, has considered mounting these development accreditation and the related needs identified earlier, by hiring one or two staff members internally. However, the ancillary costs of training materials, part-time temporary staff and the capacity to meet the needs of 600+ pre-school and early childhood staff made that option impractical and more expensive than using a contractual service.

JWE’s daily rate is about $3,000, which includes all of the staff needed to provide the training and development services (excluding the tuition cost for students taking courses leading to a Child Development Associate’s credential or a Family Development Credential). The per-student tuition cost for those courses is $1,850, which can be compared to the $2,400 typical tuition cost per student charged by certification institutions in our area.

Ms. McBride utilizes various resources as needed to respond to staff, parent and grantor agency wants and emerging requirements. However, there are no new trainings scheduled, involving JWE this year.

The issues you raise regarding the background matters you cite, did not arise in any of our discussions with or about JWE.

Ms. McBride met Julian Walker in the context of the work he provided to the agency under our contractual service with JWE. A subsidiary business of JWE is operated by J. Walker’s son, Julian, who is the creator of and provider of a parent development course, called Encouraging Parent Engagement Curriculum (EPEC). Our Head Start administration believed EPEC would be useful in helping to achieve the agency’s parent-involvement goals. As a result of these trainings, the number of hours parents engaged with their children in our Head Start/Early Head Start academies increased significantly.

-L. Nathan Hare,  President and CEO of CAO of WNY

(The website of JWE is https://jwemockup.wordpress.com)