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UPDATE: Hundreds of JCCEO employees could be terminated

(WBRC)
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 1:59 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2021 at 1:36 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s a story that continued to update throughout the day Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

JCCEO Board Chairman, Midfield Mayor Gary Richardson, confirmed Wednesday that 500 JCCEO employees could be terminated, but not all of the employees have been notified.

Initially, Richardson said emails went out to 198 employees connected to Head Start and Early Head Start programs telling them they were let go. The emails were sent out Wednesday, November 24.

A couple of hours later WBRC confirmed all the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity employees were terminated. WBRC was later told 258 JCCEO employees have not been informed they will be terminated. Emails will go out Friday after the JCCEO Board hears from Birmingham and Jefferson County leaders.

As far as Head Start, the affected employees can reapply, but it will be up to Head Start to decide if they will get their jobs back.

Richardson said parents have not been notified yet about Head Start closing down, but leaders are working on doing that right now.

On November 22, 2021, the JCCEO relinquished control of Head Start grant funds at the agency’s request due to questions regarding the agency’s finances. There was a Zoom meeting between some JCCEO board members and the company hired by the Head Start, CDI Head Start. CDI is supposed to let Head Start employees know in the next couple days how and where to apply for their jobs.

Head Start Administration emailed this statement concerning the changes in Jefferson County and what parents can expect:

On Monday, November 22, 2021, Jefferson County Commission for Economic Opportunity (JCCEO) notified the Office of Head Start (OHS) of its decision to relinquish their Head Start grant effectively immediately. The grantee’s unexpected relinquishment decision immediately halted all program operations (including staff employment) and services to children and families. Upon learning of JCCEO’s grant relinquishment, OHS met with the former grantee to begin planning to transition operations of their Head Start program to OHS interim management.

OHS has deployed Community Development Institute Head Start (CDI Head Start) to serve as an interim provider of Head Start services in the communities previously served by JCCEO. CDI Head Start has contractual relationship with OHS to provide Head Start services on an interim basis in communities throughout the country where there is no currently designated provider. CDI Head Start will be assigned a Head Start grant to provide Head Start services in this area until a formal competitive process for identifying a grantee can be completed by ACF and a Head Start grant is awarded to an agency.

OHS is making every effort to minimize disruption of services to children and families, caused by this unexpected grantee relinquishment. Accordingly, OHS and CDI HS will engage in several activities to reopen Head Start centers as quickly as possible, while ensuring the health and safety of children and families. For example on Wednesday, November 24, CDI Head Start met with staff who previously worked for the JCCEO Head Start program, to discuss the process for being hired under the CDI Head Start grant. Please note, all prior JCCEO HS and EHS staff are given priority hire for their positions, if they have applicable qualifications and participate in the complete hiring process with CDI HS. Additionally, CDI Head Start is also in contact with the Alabama Child Care Administrator regarding the necessary licenses to operate the centers previously operated by Jefferson County Commission for Economic Opportunity.

CDI Head Start and Jefferson County Commission for Economic Opportunity are working together to keep families informed of the closing of the centers, and timeline toward reopening. As of now, OHS anticipates centers to begin opening in mid-December.

JCCEO is seeking $3 million from the city of Birmingham and Jefferson County to help with their funding problems.

Employees were paid last week after a delay because of funding problems but money was moved around to cover payroll.

The allegation of financial mismanagement is troubling to Birmingham and Jefferson County leaders. Leaders have denied any mismanagement of funds.

“The county is more concerned about the services it renders for the citizens,” Jimmie Stephen, Jefferson County Commission President said. “We would be very reluctant to add any money to the JCCEO coffers.”

Stephens added that the commission wants to see those services continue, even if they are not provided by the JCCEO.

WBRC was given a copy of the letter sent to Head Start employees:

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