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Situation with Sullivan Head Start remains fluid

Alex Kielar
Posted 2/13/24

MONTICELLO — After S ullivan County Head Start abruptly closed its doors on Friday, February 2, the process to eradicate the situation with the childcare program remains ongoing. Since then, …

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Situation with Sullivan Head Start remains fluid


MONTICELLO — After Sullivan County Head Start abruptly closed its doors on Friday, February 2, the process to eradicate the situation with the childcare program remains ongoing. Since then, Healthy Kids of Monticello and Liberty has offered to pick up some of the slack. 

The Childcare provider is tuition-based and accepts Childcare Assistance from the Department of Social Services. 

Commissioner of Health and Human Services, John Liddle, said that his office is in contact with several providers around the county that have centers with availability, which includes Healthy Kids. He said that his office is helping people connect with those providers, especially those who are in emergency situations.

“We didn’t have a lot of available childcare spaces to begin with,” Liddle said, “but for the families that are in a tight situation and reached out to us at Social Services, we do have contact information and locations [of providers] that we are sharing with those folks as they call in.”

Liddle mentioned that SUNY Sullivan was one of the providers that reached out, as they have a daycare facility. There are also several other providers that reached out to Liddle’s office and offered a range of facilities to be made available. 

“Hopefully now that we have a bit of a clearer way ahead, we can get folks back into the Head Start program quickly,” Liddle said. “My biggest concern is getting support for the medically fragile kids. There are 75 of those children...We have worked with the providers to make sure that there is coverage for those kids.”


Interim company

District 3 Legislator Brian McPhillips said during the Management & Budget, Capital Planning and Budgeting Committee meeting that the Head Start board now has 11 members, which includes him after he was put on the board on Wednesday, February 7. 

“I was put on the board, as well as other county employees, to assist in the transactions,” he said. “We made the determination to relinquish the grant, which was in the best interest of moving forward for Sullivan County Head Start.”

Brian McPhillips said that by relinquishing the grant, a company called CDI was able to come in as an interim managing firm that will have access to different grant funding than what was necessary to run the Head Start division. 

As the Democrat previously reported, Liddle said that it will take the interim grantee operator about a month to complete their process and get situated, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office notified him. But Liddle also said that all parties involved are working hard to get it expedited as quickly as possible.

“Sullivan County Government is committed to accelerating that timeline as much as we possibly can,” said Liddle. “It’s really up to the Federal Office of Head Start at this point to bring that interim vendor in. But as soon as they are on the ground, we’re ready to engage with them and get this thing moving.”

Brian McPhillips commended the efforts of all involved in getting this situation handled. 

“We recognize all the efforts of [the Social Services] staff and others who are coming together to get this corrected,” Brian McPhillips said. 

The Legislator also said that part of the reason that they decided to go with CDI was that if they had gone any other route, there were terms such as termination or suspension brought up. He said that those terms could jeopardize the future opportunity of Head Start for future grants.

“So we just felt that it was the best option that was presented to us,” Brian McPhillips said. “There should have been things taking place, and I think those will be addressed in the future, to make sure this doesn’t happen again. 

He said that CDI will have different funds available to them and that after the company goes through their own process, which includes hiring, firing and background checks, they will take over as the interim management company. Thus, they will then oversee all the students that had been enrolled in Head Start. 

“Although this strips Sullivan Head Start of overall control of what has been commonplace over the last 40-plus years,” he continued, “it’s in our opinion, the best way to move forward to get back to the potential of a Sullivan County Head Start under new guidelines and new boards.”

Brian McPhillips also said that the Covid-19 pandemic may have been where the processes of getting funding were either missed, changed or not handled properly. 

“That will be handled at a future time,” he said. “What we’re focused on right now is how to expedite services to the people of this community. Getting the kids that need the service, back educated, back with food in their stomachs and assisting them with this crisis that was put forward to us.”


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