FULTON, NY – When it comes to the development of young children and helping prekindergarten children succeed one of the most important resources available is the Head Start program.
Operated under the auspices of Oswego County Opportunities Head Start, which is available for children age 3 and 4, provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition services, and quality programming so that children are properly prepared to begin kindergarten.
As with any program one of the reasons for Head Start’s success is the ability to adapt to changes and evolve to meet the current needs of its consumers.
To ensure that the Head Start program in Oswego County is poised for a successful future Beth Kazel, director of OCO’s Education Services, recently completed the Head Start Management Fellows Program at UCLA.
A national training program established in 1991 to develop and strengthen the entrepreneurial management skills of Head Start directors and management teams.
The program was launched after an extensive need assessment revealed that focused management training would ensure that Head Start program directors would be better equipped to manage limited resources in ways that would have a major impact on the services they provide for children and their families.
The Head Start Management Fellows program consisted of 12 full days of management courses that covered a wide range of topics from strategic planning and data analysis to financial management and much more.
“It was a very challenging program,” said Kazel. “I’ve completed several professional development programs over the years but this was by far the most intense. While many of the topics were not new they were much more in-depth and the professors, all of which are nationally renowned in their field, were amazing.”
The highlight of the program was the development of a Management Improvement Plan.
Each participant prepared a plan for their unique Head Start program that identified areas in which there was room for improvement.
Of the 40 plans submitted Kazel’s was one of ten chosen to be presented at the program.
“It was very rewarding to know that my plan was chosen,” said Kazel. “One of the concepts I stressed in my plan is the need for collaboration and engaging community members to ensure that we are efficiently meeting the needs that exist in the Head Start area without duplicating services. The importance of collaboration was a common theme throughout the program. To emphasize that importance the professors looked at the concept of SWOT assessment (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) differently. Rather than SWOT they preferred TOWS, an assessment that reversed the concept and placed threats and opportunities as the top priorities and demonstrated how collaboration and identifying potential partners improves efficiency and makes for a stronger program.”
In addition to the extensive course study the ability to network with Head Start directors from throughout the country provided valuable insight into the structure and operation of other Head Start programs.
“It was interesting to discover how other Head Start programs are managed. I came away with some great ideas and new concepts that I am anxious to share with our Head Start management team. One of the goals that I set for myself when I decided to attend this program was to be able to put together a plan that will prepare and successfully guide the Head Start program for the next 10 years. By sharing the knowledge and information I received at the Head Start Management Fellows Program with our leadership team here at OCO we can ensure that the Head Start program in Oswego County is on the right path regarding federal initiatives and priorities and most importantly, meeting the needs of our consumers and the community,” said Kazel.
One of only two participants from New York State Kazel’s completion of the program comes at a critical juncture for the Head Start program in Oswego County.
“Beth attending the Head Start Management Fellows Program was very timely, as the field is experiencing many changes at a fast pace,” said OCO Deputy Executive Director Patrick Waite. “It was a great opportunity for Beth to hone her skills and network with other leaders across the country. She is a long term dedicated leader in OCO’s Education Services, and I am very proud of her accomplishment.”
“Completing the Head Start Management Fellows Program was a great experience,” added Kazel. “It reenergized me and reinforced my passion for Head Start. Head Start is an equalizer. It provides children with an opportunity they may not have had to learn and develop skills that will prepare them to successfully enter kindergarten. I began my career in the Head Start program 33 years ago and while it is now one of several programs that I oversee, my enthusiasm for Head Start remains strong and I have carried that enthusiasm to all of my programs.”