"The Kids Don't Know Any Better"

Chaos in classroom, clueless in boardroom

When the teacher was asked how she dealt with children who bit or hit her she responded that she "accepts it" because "the kids don't know any better."  

This is a quote from the report on a July 2018 unannounced monitoring review of the Cape Cod Child Development Head Start Program.  The Q&A happened in the context of a review of teacher training, teacher qualifications and classroom management.

This section of the report begins with an examination of staff credentialing and the work load shouldered by Center Managers.  Investigators report that 22 of 67 teachers and/or assistant teachers do not meet the minimum qualification for a Head Start Teacher...  

"There was evidence that other staff did not have the appropriate credentials for the positions they held. For example. the Behavioral Specialist shared and record review showed that she possessed a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education. but did not have evidence of formal training in behavioral science or experience in addressing mental health needs as required by her position. Also, a review of the Health Manager's personnel file indicated no experience with nutrition or overseeing a nutrition program. or any evidence that she was a licensed or certified health professional able to perform health procedures as required by the nurse role she had assumed. Finally. a review of teacher credential documentation showed that 22 of 67 teachers and/or assistant teachers did not meet the minimum qualification for a Head Slart teacher--a Child Development Associate Credential."

Even more concerning is the report's assertion on Center Managers: 

Center Managers reported they did not have time and sufficient resources to carry out their supervisory and coaching responsibilities due to other duties that were assigned to them, such as meal preparation and clean-up. as well as providing coverage in the classroom. The grantee did not employ any kitchen aides or other assistant~ who could assist with those duties. A time study conducted by the Education Director showed that up to 8 hours per day or Center Managers' time was devoted to meal preparation and clean-up as well as providing teacher coverage in the classrooms due to teachers being out or on break. One Center Manager was also tasked with being a family advocate for two sites in addition to her current responsibilities since there were not enough family advocates. The Center Manager responded she did not have a family service-related credential and received no guidance or training to support families and develop family partnership agreements.

Then we come to the classroom observation cited at the beginning of this article:

Classroom observations and interviews with staff found teaching staff did not have the appropriate knowledge or skills to complete their jobs. Two classroom observations at the Hyannis site provided no evidence of teaching practices or skills that promoted pro·social behavior and supported children to self-regulate. nor evidence that teachers were able to de-escalate children who exhibited aggressive and injurious behavior. Teachers, Center Managers, and the Behavior Specialist reported they did not have the skills needed to support children with the challenging behaviors they encountered daily. When the teacher was asked how she dealt with children who bit or hit her she responded that she "accepts it" because "the kids don't know any better." As mentioned above, Center Managers reported they did not have time and sufficient resources to carry out their supervisory and coaching responsibilities and were therefore not able to ensure quality teacher cbild interactions, oversee curriculum fidelity. and ensure progress on school readiness goals. Also mentioned above, the
Behavioral Specialist did not have the necessary skills to support teachers in addressing children's challenging behaviors. Consequently. as reported by managers and teachers. children and staff were physically injured by children with aggressive behaviors and some teachers were unable to support the developmental and education needs of all children in their classroom.

Head Start investigators concluded that the situation they found in the classrooms, in personnel files and interviews with staff demonstrated "a systemic or substantial failure in an area that the Secretary [of Housing and Human Services] involves a failure to comply with standards related to early childhood development and health services. family and community partnerships. or program design and management."  

The report cites this as a "deficiency" item and gives CCCD sixty days to correct the problem.  The report was issued on October 26th, so the clock is running down fast on this deficiency finding.

Meanwhile, Over in the Boardroom...

While chaos ensues in many Head Start classrooms, investigators' findings regarding the board of directors' oversight of the agency's finances begins to look like "Clueless" television series.

The first article in this series touched upon lack of regular financial reports being presented at monthly board meetings.  Further into the federal report, the examiners expressed additional concern about board procedures and transparency:

As noted, during a March 1, 2018 meeting with the OHS and the OOM, Board members acknowledged they were not aware the grant year 2017 budget was spent prematurely. When this issue was discussed at this same meeting, Board members indicated the Finance Committee/Subcommittee looked deeper at the agency's financial information. Upon review, there was no evidence to demonstrate the entire Board was fully informed by the subcommittee of the agency's financial picture. For instance, the Finance subcommittee meeting minutes for November 13. 2017 showed the agency needed to ''go into the line of credit last week but returned the funding from a late state payment," and that "(the agency] may need to draw down from the line of credit at the end of December due to the Blue Cross bill that is due"; however, these matters were not reflected in the minutes from the following full Board meeting on December 13. 2017. Further, while the regulations allow for the governing body to establish an advisory committee to oversee key responsibilities related to program governance, the governing body must establish the structure, communication, and oversight to maintain its legal and fiscal responsibility for the Head Start agency. It should also be noted the grantee has not employed a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) since January 2018, and the prior CFO only worked from spring 2017 to August 2018.

The Board was further criticized for "lapses":

A review of Board meeting mmutes from-June 28, September 27. and December 13, 2017, and from March 28. 2018-revealed further lapses in the Board's understanding of the agency's financial picture. Although the agency's financials were referenced during Board meetings, there was no evidence the Board conducted a review of the agency's financial statements (i.e., current revenue and expenditure reports). or that it had knowledge of or inquired into the issue of the agency's growing debt. Significantly, the grantee incurred expenditures that exceeded revenue in the amount of $422,138 in 2017, and it appeared (preliminarily). $656,630 in 2018. Furthermore, even though the meeting minutes from December 13, 2017 stated "[a] lot of board members would like more information about the financials of CCCDP." there was no indication the Board introduced steps to ensure members received more information. in order to effectively monitor expenditures and revenues for compliance with relevant laws and regulations related to financial statements.

Then there is the matter of credit card statements not being provided for review:

Similarly, the agency credit card statements also were not appropriately reviewed and approved. as reflected in the meeting minutes. The Board meeting minutes showed a statement was approved on September 27, 2017. but with no indication of which month's statement was actually approved: a statement was approved again on March 28, 2018 for January and February 2018, while the December 13.2017 meeting minutes reflected " [t]here was no credit card statement available. We will vote on this statement at the next Board of Directors meeting." However. a review of Chase Bank agency credit card statements showed the total balance went from $10,907 in July 30, 2017 to $57,047 as of June 30, 2018, incurring interest at 24 percent per annum. In addition, a review of the Chase Bank agency credit card statement due February 23.2018 showed a previous balance of $27,773.10, with a payment credit of $10,346.45 and purchases totaling $10,304.90 during the statement month. The statement also showed interest charged in the amount of $545.77 for the month.
Despite these amounts. there was no further discussion documented in meeting minutes that the Board questioned the credit card expenses or spending patterns. or in general was taking steps to address the large debt and interest accrual. Grantees are required to share monthly financial statements. including credit card expenditures, wilh the Governing Board (Head Start Act. 642(d)(2)), as well as use ongoing monitoring data and other information in order to conduct its responsibilities (1301.2(b)(2)).

This section of the report concludes:

The evidence described above and gathered during the review demonstrates that the governing body did not approve financial management, accounting, and reporting policies, and failed to oversee the agency's compliance with laws and regulations related to financial statements, including monitoring compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing financial statements and accounting practices; therefore, it was not in compliance with the regulation.

This finding is reported as a deficiency and Cape Cod Child Development was given 60 day to correct the deficiency.  Again, the report is dated October 26, 2018.

Where was CCCD's Board?

The more one digs into the federal report on the CCCD Head Start program, the more one wonders where the agency's Board of Directors while all this was happening?  The CCCD board of directors is populated with prominent professionals with strong reputations.  Many of these board members have prominent business affiliations on Cape Cod - and the ongoing problems at CCCD tend to bring their employers into disrepute.  

Where were the bankers and financial professionals when the Board went months without financial statements to review?  Who on the Board was monitoring program compliance?  How could one of the Cape's most respected non-profits fall so far, so fast when it had the services of such distinguished board.  

As this story continues to unfold, it becomes increasingly apparent that such a distingushed and apparently qualified Board of Directors fell far short of the mark in their duties of oversight.

More to Come

There's plenty more to come as future articles in this series examine some of the other findings in the ACF report.

Head Start is an absolutely essential service for many Cape Cod families.  Some 377 local children attend Head Start programs provided by Cape Cod Child Development.

While many of the items cited in the federal Head Start report appear as intricate finance or policy items, they are moving parts in a machine to deliver services to the agency's Head Start clients.  When the machine malfunctions, we end up with cases like the child-bitten teacher cited at the top of this story.

If you'd like to jump ahead, you can download the entire federal report here.

CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.