Summit County Head Start makes the grade |

Summit County Head Start makes the grade

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Dillon Valley Elementary preschooler Monse Gaspar reclines on the slide Tuesday morning after running around on the school's new playground. DVE preschool teacher Amy Brackenhoff said that each day the students go outside to exercise their big muscles (gross motor activities) and go inside to exercise things like the small muscles in their hands (fine motor activities).

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit County Head Start program is in its infancy, but federal reviewers gave it high marks last week.

“I had to keep reminding myself that this is a new program,” said one member of the federal review team who spent last week talking to parents, observing classrooms and digging through files.

Head Start is a federal program that serves the child development needs of preschool children and their low-income families. Summit County Head Start has been in existence for about a year.

The local program receives federal funding to support 35 Summit County families with preschool children.

The federal review team, which will visit the program once every three years, checked for compliance with hundreds of criteria.

“This is our report card,” said Sheila Groneman, Summit County Head Start director. “There are some things we need to work on, but, over and over again, (the review team) stressed the high quality of our classrooms and the teaching staff. I’m very proud of the program.”

In most Head Start communities, a single entity, such as a county government or school district, runs the entire program.

“Ours is a little bit of an unusual model,” said Lucinda Burns, executive director of Early Childhood Options. “We have multiple agencies working together, which gives us the opportunity to utilize all our strengths.”

The Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) coordinates family support services; Summit School District offers preschool classrooms and teachers; Summit County government provides health services and is the fiscal agent; and Early Childhood Options employs the program director and other program leadership.

According to Burns, the review team commented on how well the partnership has worked to coordinate services.

“The other piece they hit on was how positive the families feel in terms of what they’re getting out of the program,” she said. “Head Start really encourages family participation, and (the review team) was impressed with how well that has worked in Summit County.

“It’s exciting, because the goal is that we’re providing a program that really, positively impacts families,” Burns added.

Based on the review team’s feedback, Summit County Head Start will develop ways of measuring and tracking the success of its children and families.

“Because it’s a brand new program, we’re still deciding on the best ways to track outcomes, but we’ll certainly be deciding that in the coming year,” Burns said.

The review team soon will provide a formal report outlining the local program’s specific areas that need improvement.

“I think we did an outstanding job for our first time ever,” Burns said. “I told Sheila it was an A-minus.”

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 x203 or

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