Parents and teachers vent frustration at Head Start schools in South LA and Compton

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

“Can you tell me your name?”
“Ke-lonze James.”
“How old are you Ke-Lonze?”
“And what do you like better: going to school or going to work with your mom?”
“Going to work.”

imageKe-Lonze used to be a student at a Head Start preschool in Compton. But this year, things are a little different. His school is one of 21 schools in South LA that are under new management this year.

Head Start is a federal program, but at the local level it is run by other agencies. In June two organizations, Crystal Stairs and Volunteers of America took over South LA’s Head Start programs.

Parents expected their kids to start school in late August, but weeks later, a lot of schools still haven’t opened. Ke-Lonze’s school is open, but his mom, Takisha Collins says that because of limited staff and regulation changes at her son’s school, she now has to take him to work with her instead of leaving him there.

“I have no other options,” she says. He likes it, but Collins, a single mom with a full-time job, feels differently, “He bugs me the whole time, the whole eight hours he bugs me, so it’s hard.”

Today, Collins and her son weren’t at school or work, they were riding a bus around Compton with several other community members protesting the changes to the Head Start program.

The delayed start to the school year and sudden change in policies are not the only complaints the group has. For many, the biggest issue is that most of the teachers have been fired or replaced.

Pastora Alvarez-Munroa, who worked at Willowbrook Head Start in Compton until last year, said, “I received a letter through the mail after 29 years of service. It’s a slap in the face. We want our jobs back. We want to go back and work with the family and the community.”

Alvarez-Monroa came out today with other teachers, union organizers, parents, and community leaders to show her frustration with Head Start.

Volunteers of America in LA did not return our call, but the group’s organizer, Orlando Ward, told KPCC that his organization is asking parents to be patient while the schools transition to new management.

But the parents and community members at today’s event want Head Start to know that they’re not happy. Ke-Lonze’s mom, Takisha Collins said, “I just hope everything can go back to normal.”

Collins’ employer has told her she can’t keep bringing Ke-Lonze with her to work. So like many parents in the community, she hopes he can get back to school soon.

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