Hattiesburg Public School District applies to take over Head Start

Hattiesburg Public School District applies to take over Head Start

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Public School District has applied for a 5.6 million dollar grant to have the Forrest County PACE Head Start program under its jurisdiction.

According to Superintendent James Bacchus, the one year grant will not be announced until February.

"It's a valued program in the community," said Bacchus. "We certainly want to keep it in the community."

PACE Head Start is currently run by the Community Development Institute. CDI took over in July after the Administration for Families and Children said the program did not have "an effective system in place" to ensure student safety after a report surfaced that a student was allegedly sexually abused by a staff member. According to the incident report, Head Start's executive director Peggy Ainsworth was knowledgeable of the incident but did not report it to the correct authorities.

One parent said earlier this fall that she had been pleased with her student's programs at Head Start after CDI took over, although she learned of the alleged abuse through a news story rather than the school.

Bacchus said if HPSD receives the grant, the HPSD school board will serve as the governing board for the Head Start program. A collaboration between Petal and Forrest County schools with HPSD will create what Bacchus referred to as a "policy board," which will oversee programs and parent involvement.

"We would have to have federal monitors coming in and making sure we are meeting the programs and expectations that the funds are for and making sure that we're being fiscally responsible."