Alachua County school board candidates react to the district's loss of the head start grant

Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 11:50 PM EDT
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School board members learned the Alachua County school district has lost the grant to operate its decades-old Head Start program.

Notice that the school district lost the head start grant came only by phone. No one with the district is saying why.

This comes at a time where 2 school board seats are up for election, each with 2 candidates.

District four incumbent Leanetta McNealy says she's witnessed the impact of the head start program on 3 and 4-year-olds education.

McNealy said, "But we need our headstart so even though we don't have it now and we're simply with vpk which is a three hourly daily program. We must find out how to regain it, how to rebuild trust within our community because this has to be devastating for everyone."

All candidates agree, losing the grant to another group is disappointing.

McNealy's opponent, Sande Calkins notes the impact on the district's employees as well.

Calkins said, "I'm really worried about our employees we have so many teachers and assistants that I don't think there will be jobs for. I mean some of the teachers can um you know get certified and be in a regular elementary area. I'm just really sick about people losing their jobs."

The Alachua County school district has received the federal head start grant for the pre-school program for more than 30 years. District 2 candidate Diyonne McGraw offers her solution to making up for the loss.

"Because every child deserves a quietly public education but it has to start with VPK through 12 and I would bring leadership where I believe in starting early. If we make sure kids from VPK to third grade are ready, ready to become great readers. It's gonna make a whole lotta difference in our public school system to make kids more successful."

The $6 million grant will go to another program outside the district and district 2 candidate Khanh-Lien Banko says collaboration is key.

"One of my priorities as a school board candidate is closing the achievement gap. And I think that locally that means working with the children's trust, the lavender center, our early learning coalition and our providers including whoever the new headstart provider will be."

Voting day for the four school board candidates is coming up in the 2020 primary election on August 18.