Essential Tips: Strategic Planning

Tip #1:  Achieve buy-in before you begin.

Include all stakeholders in strategic planning to establish buy-in. Staff from a variety of positions (teachers, family service workers, center directors, home visitors, management staff, etc.) will bring a different point of view. Also invite members from your Policy Council and Board of Directors as well as community partners. Ask everyone to complete a survey prior to strategic planning. Be sure the survey includes questions about what they want the program to accomplish for children, families, staff and community.

Tip #2:  Create a list of your program’s strengths and challenges.

This list should contain valuable information to establish your program’s goals and objectives. The challenges represent potential goals and the strengths represent potential strategies to achieve the goals. Also take time to review your program’s mission, vision and guiding principles. Ensure they accurately reflect what you are working to achieve. Finally, for each goal and objective, in addition to timelines and persons responsible, include a “success indicator” column.  This will specifically describe how it will look when each goal is achieved.

Tip #3:  Review and utilize your programmatic data.

Strategic planning is a great time to collect and review key programmatic documents as a group. Critical data includes items such as your self-assessment, community assessment, child assessment data, CLASS data, ongoing monitoring data and family engagement data, just to name a few. Review this important data when creating your goals and objectives.

Looking for someone to facilitate your program’s Strategic Planning and end up with a written strategic plan? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Preparing for a Successful Health & Safety Federal Monitoring Review Event

Have you begun to prepare for your Environmental Health & Safety Review Event? For many programs, Environmental Health & Safety is the first Review Event that you will receive in the newly aligned monitoring system. The new Environmental Health & Safety protocol details the items that will be a part of this Review Event.

Below are several important items to focus on when preparing for a successful Health & Safety Review Event:

  • Observe the health and safety-related items in your facilities. Observe the same things that the Reviewers will be observing. These include: 1) the safety and cleanliness of your inside and outdoor spaces, 2) staff/child ratios, 3) emergency procedures, 4) supervision and 5) medication management. These are just a few of the areas that the Reviewers will be observing. Create a plan to quickly resolve any areas that are out of compliance.
  • Review your tracking systems.  Ensure that your tracking systems are current and complete. The Reviewers will spend time reviewing the system that you use to ensure that all of your staff receive a criminal record check prior to being hired. They will also review documents related to inspections (fire, building, USDA) and Licensing.
  • Articulate the systems that are in place.  Reviewers want to see systems in place throughout your program. When interviewing your staff, the Reviewers want to hear about the systems that you have in place as it pertains to health and safety. Answer their questions by describing the systems, (i.e. First we do this, then we do this, etc…), demonstrating that the same process is followed for all children and families in each of your centers.

Looking for a Mock Review to prepare for a successful Health & Safety Federal Monitoring Review Event? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Considerations When Conducting CLASS Observations

As you know, it’s important to have high scores on your CLASS observations. High CLASS scores correlate with effective teaching practices. In addition, low CLASS scores is the leading cause of programs being placed in Recompetition.

When conducting CLASS observations, consider the following 3 points:

  • Attain buy-in. Talk with your teaching staff about the process prior to the CLASS observations. Discuss the purpose of the observations as well as the plan to provide support to teaching teams after the observations are completed. You’ll secure buy-in when everyone knows what to expect and are informed of the benefits.
  • Provide feedback and mentor coaching. After you complete the observations in each classroom, provide immediate feedback to the teaching team on their strengths and areas for improvement. Follow up with mentor coaching to teaching staff who could benefit from individualized support. Mentor coaching activities can include:
    • Setting goals to work on during the mentor coaching process;
    • Sending video clips to the Teachers to review along with guided questions to answer;
    • Providing video clips to the Mentor Coach that were taken by the teachers in their classrooms. These clips will provide an opportunity for the Mentor Coach to provide feedback;
    • Sending activities to the Teachers to work on and reflect upon;
    • Having phone calls or meetings between the Mentor Coach and Teachers to discuss the video clips and activities.
  • Utilize the results. Analyze the results of the CLASS observations as a part of your programmatic planning. You can utilize the results when reviewing your school readiness plan and in strategic planning. These results are critical when making decisions about the training plan for your teaching staff as well as their professional development plans. They should also drive your decisions as it pertains to classroom instruction, purchasing of supplies and mentor coaching.

Looking for an outside observer to conduct your CLASS observations or long-distance Mentor Coaching? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Essential Tips: Writing Your 5 Year Grant Application

Tip #1:  Show that your program utilizes a systems-based approach to service delivery.

There are many opportunities throughout the grant application to demonstrate that your program has systems in place. Key systems include references to 1) your policies and procedures, 2) written plans and 3) an ongoing monitoring system. Demonstrate that you have systems in place to deliver services to children and families – including the way you track and monitor service delivery. Display other systems you have in place – such as recruitment/enrollment, professional development, transitions and tracking staff qualifications.

Tip #2:  Include information on your data-driven decision-making model.

There is a lot of valuable programmatic data at your fingertips – child assessment data, enrollment and attendance data, family engagement data, CLASS data and ongoing monitoring data, just to name a few. By aggregating and analyzing this data, you have critical information at hand that you can use to make decisions for your program. Provide information on how you will measure and report progress on your long-term goals and short-term objectives as well as the impact areas.

Tip #3:  Demonstrate a strengths-based, empowerment model in serving families.

It’s important to meet families where they are and build upon their strengths. This is a foundational element in Head Start. Demonstrate how your program will support family growth and development. Show how your program empowers families to self-sufficiency. Explain how you utilize multi-disciplinary teams and strong community partnerships to achieve this. Share information on how you implement your Parent, Family and Community Engagement plan as well as how you utilize the data from the plan.

Looking for someone to write or review your 5 year grant application? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Best Practices for Family Engagement

It is essential that families are fully engaged in the lives of their children including helping their children become ready for school. Below are several examples of best practices in establishing family engagement in your program.

  • Conduct an assessment of your family engagement plan.  Review the level of family engagement that currently exists in your program. Determine how your program is set up to involve parents. Ask yourself:
    • How are families encouraged to participate?
    • How do you assess the strengths and needs of the children and families?
    • Do you have established partnerships in your community to meet all of the needs of the children and families?
    • How do you communicate with parents to show them that they are their child’s first and most important teacher?
  • Implement the Parent, Family and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework. The PFCE Framework is a roadmap to ensure that family engagement is integrated in all systems across your program. The foundations of the framework (program leadership, continuous program improvement, and professional development) are the building blocks to establish a strong level of family engagement throughout your program. Strategies to create family engagement are centered on 4 impact areas – program environment, family partnerships, teaching & learning, and community partnerships. The framework presents 7 parent and family outcomes that represent the goals for engagement with parents, families and the community.
  • Support the home-school connection.  The relationship between teachers and parents is critical in creating a foundation of school success. Regular communication between parents and teachers can build support and strengthen the important work that teachers do in the classroom. This frequent communication will allow teachers to:
    • gain a better understanding of the background and experiences of the child,
    • provide parents with information on how their child is progressing in school, and
    • provide parents with ways to continue the learning at home.

Model activities that parents can do at home with their child – such as talking with their child during daily routines, reading to their child and providing opportunities for their child to draw and print – just to name a few.

Looking for training on Family Engagement? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Health and Safety: A Major Focus in Head Start

While health and safety has always been emphasized in Head Start, it is more important than ever that you have systems in place to ensure that your program is in full compliance with all health and safety-related matters. Health and safety is a major focus of many of the newer parts of Head Start – 5 year grants, the newly aligned monitoring system and Recompetition.

  • 5 year grants.  As a part of the 5 year project periods, you must complete a screening of the health and safety environment of each of your centers. This must be completed within 60 days of the start of the project period. Additionally, your Board of Directors must sign a certification of compliance confirming that all centers have received a health and safety screening within 75 days of the start of the project period.
  • Newly aligned monitoring system.  An Environmental Health and Safety Review event is one of the Review events in the newly aligned monitoring system. This Review event focuses solely on health and safety across your program. A Health and Safety Reviewer will visit each classroom in every center of your program. The Review event includes safe and clean facilities, healthy learning environments, safe learning environments & supervision as well as safe transportation.
  • Recompetition.  One of the top reasons that programs are in Recompetition is due to health and safety issues. Deficiencies in the area of health and safety during federal monitoring reviews as well as self-reported health and safety issues are leading causes of programs that have to recompete.

Looking for training on Health and Safety? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Key Points from the 2014 NHSA Fall Leadership Institute

In case you weren’t able to attend the 2014 National Head Start Association Fall Leadership Institute last week, below are the highlights.

50th Anniversary of Head Start:

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Head Start, it’s important to remember that it was the Cooke memorandum that began Head Start. President Johnson appointed Sargent Shriver to lead the administration’s War on Poverty. Shriver recruited his pediatrician, Dr. Robert E. Cooke, to head a committee whose recommendations led to the beginning of Head Start in 1965.

Update on the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships grant applications:

560 Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships grant applications were received.  60% are partnerships, 20% are a combination, 15% are expansion only, and 5% couldn’t be identified from the Executive Summary. The applications are being read now. The plan is to begin negotiations in December and finish the announcements by the end of March.

Update on the revised Head Start Program Performance Standards:

The Head Start Program Performance Standards have been revised and they are now in “internal coordination.” It is expected that the Performance Standards will come out for public comment this winter.

Update on Reauthorization:

It does not look like Congress is ready to start a reauthorization in the near future. It is likely that the revised Head Start Program Performance Standards need to come out and see how they work before reauthorization is going to be discussed.

Update on Recompetition:

  • 25% of all grantees have competed in Recompetition. The highest percentage of programs that have competed has been Community Action Agencies, programs that serve 200-499 children, and programs that serve Head Start only.
  • 6.9% of regional Head Start and Early Head Start programs have been in Recompetition due to CLASS.  No program has ever fallen below CLASS thresholds for emotional support or classroom organization.
  • Programs that had CLASS scores that fell into the bottom 10% tended to have Teachers with lower degrees.
  • Supervision issues continue to be a leading cause of programs going into Recompetition.
  • Outcomes of Recompetition: 72% of programs have gotten part of all of their program back; 20% lost their grant; and 8% have had their grant reposted.

Update on transitioning to the 5 year grants:

As it pertains to 5 year grant oversight, regional staff will be spending more time on addressing and correcting programs’ non-compliances. They are looking toward monthly contacts with grantees driving the agenda.


  • 70% of Head Start Teachers now have a Bachelor’s degree.
  • A complete review of all Head Start facilities will be conducted. For the next 2 years, Head Start will be taking pictures of your facilities. This information will be included in a report to Congress in order to tackle the issue of the state of Head Start facilities in a more consistent and coordinated way.

A Summary of the Newly Aligned Monitoring System

I’m sure that you’ve heard about the Newly Aligned Monitoring System. You may have reviewed the Virtual Expo or listened to the webinar. You’ve probably seen the new terms that have been introduced – HSKI-C, Differential monitoring, MEC, RFL, Review events. While it’s important to take time to explore the Virtual Expo, we thought that a summary of the key points of the Newly Aligned Monitoring System would be helpful.

General information

  • As grants have transitioned from indefinite grant periods to 5 year grants, the monitoring process has also changed, from receiving a Monitoring Review every 3 years to receiving separate and focused Review events in Years 1 through 3 of your 5 year grant.
  • The Office of Head Start will use a multi-year perspective to evaluate grantee performance – using the data to determine if your program will re-compete at the end of the 5 year grant cycle.
  • Programs with a history of compliance will receive a differential monitoring; programs with a history of findings will receive a comprehensive monitoring.
  • Programs that have a history of compliance have met the following criteria: No findings in the last Federal Monitoring Review, no fiscal findings in the last 2 Fiscal Reviews, clean audits, no significant changes in your program, and positive input from the Regional Office. Programs that do not meet those criteria have a history of findings.
  • The differential monitoring process consists of a HSKI-C (Head Start Key Indicators – Compliance) which is made up of 27 compliance measures. If the program passes the HSKI-C, they will receive an Environmental Health & Safety Review event and a CLASS review. If the program does not pass the HSKI-C, they will receive a comprehensive Monitoring Review.
  • The comprehensive monitoring process consists of an Environmental Health & Safety Review event (in years 1 or 2), a Management Systems/Program Governance Review event (in years 2 or 3), a Fiscal Integrity/ERSEA Review event (in years 2 or 3), a Comprehensive Services/School Readiness Review event (in years 2 or 3) and a CLASS Review (in years 2 or 3). Year 4 is an evaluation and determination year. Year 5 is a non-Monitoring year.
  • Programs who receive a differential monitoring in this 5 year grant cycle will receive a comprehensive monitoring in the next 5 year grant cycle.
  • When the new Head Start Program Performance Standards come out, they will be incorporated into the newly aligned monitoring system.

Preparing for Review Events

  • Instead of one big Review, there are now content-specific Review events.
  • Programs will receive a customized grantee letter that indicates if you will receive a differential or comprehensive Monitoring Review as well as the projected Review schedule for the 5 year grant cycle.
  • Programs will receive a separate letter for each Review event and may receive multiple Review events in a year. Programs will continue to receive a 30-day letter for announced Reviews – and unannounced Reviews will continue as well.
  • A Monitoring Event Coordinator (MEC) will be assigned to each program for the 5 year cycle.  The MEC will be your primary point of contact pre-site, will schedule the planning session, will schedule activities and coordinate logistics, and will connect you with your Review Field Lead (RFL).
  • While the Reviewers are at your program, the RFL will work with you virtually, as he/she will not be on-site. The RFL will be an expert in the area of your content-specific Review event.
  • Programs will receive a report at the end of each Review event.  If you have findings, a follow-up Review will be conducted to ensure that all non-compliances have been corrected.


  • This is an opportunity to recognize grantees with a history of strong performance – and award them with a reduced monitoring process. The intention is to incentivize grantees to quality.
  • The 27 compliance measures of the HSKI-C predict grantee performance.
  • Programs who qualify for a HSKI-C will receive it in the 1st or 2nd year of their 5 year grant.
  • The key indicators of the HSKI-C protocol include fiscal integrity, management systems, program governance, and comprehensive services/school readiness.
  • Programs can expect 2 on-site Reviewers who will interview staff, Policy Council and the Board of Directors; review staff files; and review financial transactions and other documents.
  • The results of the HSKI-C are used only to identify if a comprehensive monitoring is needed.
  • The Office of Head Start will send a letter if the HSKI-C is successful (a successful HSKI-C means that you were compliant in all 27 compliance measures).

Fiscal Integrity/ERSEA Review Event

  • The key indicators of the fiscal integrity protocol include financial management systems, reporting, procurement, compensation, cost principles and facilities & property.
  • The key indicators of the ERSEA protocol include eligibility, enrollment and attendance.
  • Programs can expect 1 on-site Reviewer for 4 days who will conduct interviews with fiscal and ERSEA staff as well as review fiscal and ERSEA documents.

Environmental Health & Safety Review Event

  • Reviewers will visit every classroom in every center.
  • The Environmental Health & Safety Review entails 4 key areas – safe & clean facilities, healthy learning environments, safe learning environments & supervision, and safe transportation.
  • Programs can expect at least 1 on-site Reviewer for an average of 3 days. The Review will include observing facilities and interviewing staff.

Essential Tips: Support for New Head Start Directors & New Content Area Managers

Tip #1:  Take time to build a foundation.

As a new Director of a new Manager, take time to learn the ins and outs of Head Start as it pertains to your new position. For a new Head Start Director, initial training should include topics such as Head Start Performance Standards, Policy Council and Board of Directors requirements and compliance monitoring. For a new Content Area Manager, initial training would include topics such as content area requirements, written plans as well as required staff and parent training topics.

Tip #2:  Establish systems and a visual timeline.

One of the most important things to do as a new Director or a new Manager is to create systems. Policies and procedures as well as an ongoing monitoring system are two essential pieces. In addition, many new Directors and new Managers also find a visual timeline helpful – a document that lists when all required items are due in Head Start. Since there are so many moving parts in Head Start, having this timeline is a key piece of the puzzle.

Tip #3:  Create a network of resources and support.

A wealth of resources at your fingertips and ongoing support are important assets for a new Director or a new Manager. There are many Head Start resources available that provide guidance on key areas. It’s also important to develop an internal and external support system that will assist you in your new position. It is very helpful to have someone with whom you can discuss issues, ask questions and brainstorm.

We are experts in 1-on-1 training for new Head Start Directors or new Content Area Managers. Please give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at, if you are interested in our services.

Taking a New Look at Policy Council and Board of Directors Training August 25, 2014

It’s hard to believe that summer is ending and a new school year is upon us! Along with classes and home visits starting up, it’ll soon be time for Policy Council and Board of Directors training.  While I’m sure that your governance training will include roles and responsibilities, performance standards, and leadership opportunities, consider also including the items below.

  • The history and vision of Head Start – Just as it’s important for staff to be familiar with the history of Head Start, it’s essential for your Policy Council and Board of Directors to be familiar with it as well. Knowing where Head Start came from and where it’s going is critical information as they provide governance duties to your program. In addition to the history of Head Start, the mission, vision and guiding principles of Head Start is valuable information to share as well.
  • A strong partnership with the Management Team – It’s essential that your Policy Council and Board of Directors receive training on the value that comes from a strong partnership between the Management Team and the governing bodies. Good communication, transparency and trust are key components to creating a successful partnership. A strong partnership will result in a system of effective and efficient governance of the Head Start program.
  • Making an impact – It’s often helpful to begin with the end in mind. Talk with your Policy Council and Board of Directors about what they would like to achieve for the Head Start program while they are a part of the governing body. The possibilities are endless! This will show your Policy Council and Board of Directors the tremendous value that they bring to your agency. Policy Council and Board members can leave a lasting impact on the program for many years to come.

Looking for training for your Policy Council or Board of Directors? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at