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Public Papers - 1990 - February

Remarks at a Briefing for Head Start Volunteers in Columbus, Ohio


Ms. Clark. What I would like to do, President and Mrs. Bush, is to officially welcome you to our Head Start program and to Columbus on behalf of our board of trustees, our executive director, our policy council chairperson, the children of Head Start and their families, the staff, all of our community who work so very closely with us. We'd just like to say welcome.

The President. Well, we're very pleased to be here. Barbara -- the two of us in the family, see, this level of the family -- she knows much more about this because she's visited many Head Start programs. But I do want7E7E7E7E to7E7E7E7E say7E7E7E7E that7E7E7E7E when7E7E7E7E the7E7E7E7E Governors had the education meeting, education summit, everybody agreed that being ready to learn, the concept of -- what do you give, 18 years to it, or 20-some years? No, but some of us are just really getting out front now in something that many of you worked for a long time, and it is a national objective now. It's one of the key objectives. And so we have increased the funding and all of that for it.

But I really want to hear about parental involvement -- I know some are parents here -- and the whole volunteer aspect of it, as well as the way it just works in practice. Because we believe -- the whole administration -- and it's not Republican or Democrat -- I think on this one it gets way across any partisan politics. And people are saying, Look, the time has come to put even more emphasis on that which a lot of you have given your lives to doing. So we're here to learn and listen and say thank you, too.

Ms. Clark. Okay. What I think -- what I would like to do now is to go around and introduce all of us who are here. And I also think that our group is very representative of what you've just mentioned -- that it's not about partisanism between the parties, but that we're all here and we're working for one common cause.

I would like to introduce our president of our board of trustees, Mr. Richard Trelease.

The President. I met Richard.

Ms. Clark. One of our Head Start directors, Mrs. Christine Franklin, of our John XXIII Head Start program. One of our very faithful parents of John XXIII, Ms. Tamara Scruggs. My assistant director, Mrs. Mary Kay Dailey. The chairperson of our policy council, Mrs. Orlinda Jabbar. Our executive director, Mr. Curtis A. Brooks. And also a former Head Start student who has received an award from you for academic achievement in 1989 -- she received a Presidential award and letter -- Ms. Senta Clark.

The President. How old are you, Senta?

Senta Clark. Seven.

The President. Seven -- all right!

Mrs. Bush. Oh, it's beautiful.

Ms. Clark. And her father, Mr. Nordholm Clark.

The President. How are you, sir?

Ms. Clark. Our Head Start director at Southwestern Head Start, Mrs. Jo Bostic. Our deputy executive director, Mr. William Conley. Another very faithful parent at Southwestern, Mrs. Shelly Cantrell. And I would like to introduce Mayor Veronika Shepard, from the village of Urban Crest, who started out as a Head Start parent. And Veronika may have started out about 22 years ago, I think, with myself. And since that time, she has elevated herself through the years. She is now the mayor of Urban Crest. And she has also just recently returned from a tour in Africa.

The President. Fantastic. I just want to be sure that when we're doing the introducing -- I know you all know, probably, Don Casey and Chalmers -- just so you -- we're so proud of them and glad they're with us. Chalmers Wiley.

Ms. Clark. Absolutely. And they are individuals who definitely give support to our program. Senator Casey and Congressman Wiley. Also at our State legislative level, we have Senator Eugene Watts, Representative Ray Miller, and also Representative Dave Gilmore. And I'd like to commend our State legislative branch because through the sponsorship of Representative Ray Miller, the State of Ohio now is providing funding to Head Start for Head Start expansion to the tune of million. So this is something really great for Ohio, and I really just thank everyone.

The two in the back row -- --

The President. Smiling proudly.

Ms. Clark. -- -- smiling proudly -- [laughter] -- are my parents. Absolutely. Mrs. Alberta Clark and Mr. Spencer Clark.

Mrs. Bush. Your mother's the one who got you interested?

Ms. Clark. Absolutely. My mother's the one who got me interested. My mother is the one that, when Mr. Curtis Brooks came to our church, the Union Grove Baptist Church, and asked our minister, Reverend Phil Hill, if he could put a Head Start center in our church, and Phil Hill, Reverend Hill, said yes. And then my mother was called out and asked to serve on the committee that was reviewing. So I was very proud.

The President. And that was close to 18 -- how many years ago?

Mrs. Bush. Twenty-three, she said.

The President. Twenty-two. I missed it, yes.

Ms. Clark. I don't think I told you how old I was at the time. [Laughter]

The President. No, no you didn't.

Ms. Clark. Twenty-two years ago.

Mrs. Bush. Ten. [Laughter]

The President. Okay, well. But who's going to tell me how the -- am I supposed to just kind of ask questions, because I'm dying to ask a few questions. And I'd love to hear from the parents exactly how it works, how many parents end up getting involved. The more the better, we think, because it emphasizes not only -- helps when the kids go home and all, but it also is, I think, very good for strong family. But do you want to help me with that one?

Ms. Clark. Can I start you out just a little bit -- --

The President. Yes.

Ms. Clark. -- -- by saying that out of our entire staff -- which we have a staff of 161 individuals -- 50 percent are former Head Start parents.

The President. That's marvelous.

Ms. Clark. So, that gives us the beginning as to what our parents' involvement level is. And now I'm going to turn it over to our parents. I do want to say that we also have a home-based program. We recently converted over the past 2 years to home-base services, so we have a home-based parent; we have a center-based parent. And we have a parent who has done national training at our national Head Start conference.

The President. Tamara, tell us how it works.

Ms. Scruggs. Parent involvement is very important. It's important for the kids because the kids are always excited to have their parents come into the classroom and into the center to help.

The President. Just give me an honest percent. It is a hard -- it is tough. But what kind of percentage? Would 50 percent of them -- I mean, say, you have a room full of kids -- would 50 percent of their parents in one way or another try to be involved, or is that too high, or is that too low? Too high. So some don't, in other words.

Ms. Franklin. Some don't because -- that it's a low income program and the parents are just having so much trouble with things at home that sometimes it's kind of hard. We do have a very good parent involvement. The staff is very instrumental in bringing parents into the school -- --

The President. Maybe I could ask Mr. Clark -- obviously, your daughter, Senta, is doing pretty darn well -- don't be embarrassed -- [laughter] -- pretty darn well. What do you think she got in Head Start that maybe other kids that didn't get to go to Head Start program would?

Mr. Clark. Well, I think it prepared her for -- it's almost like when a kid is in high school getting ready for college. Head Start prepared her for elementary school. And it taught her a lot of things that probably I couldn't have taught her at home at 3 years old. And, therefore, as she got further on in school she excelled and, one day, turned around and you sent her a letter. [Laughter]

The President. The expression, Mr. Clark, that we use on that -- and I expect all the pros around here know this -- but it's ``ready to learn.'' I mean, it's not the final, obviously, learning experience, but the concept is, let's get these kids ready to learn. And perhaps that's exactly what happened.

Did you like it, Senta? Do you remember -- you're too old now, but do you remember much about the program? Did you want to go when your dad said, hey, you're going to go to Head Start? Or were you saying, no, I'd rather hang out here at home? When you were little, I mean.

Senta. I wanted to go.

The President. Yes. And then liked it when you were there?

Senta. Yes.

The President. That's great. Now what do you do? What's your interest now that you're older? Any one subject, or anything?

Senta. Math.

Mrs. Bush. That will please the President. [Laughter]

The President. Math. That's great. Who else wants to chip in on this and how it works from teachers, or volunteers, or -- --

Mrs. Bush. I wanted to ask about the parents, if you -- because I'm into literacy -- if you have programs for furthering education.

The President. And the response down there?

Ms. Shepard. I would like to touch base on that. Even though I'm a past parent, if it hadn't been for the Head Start program encouraging and giving me the incentive to further my education, I really feel that I wouldn't be now in the position I'm in as mayor of Urban Village. And that's one thing Head Start does promote with parents, is to further your education, right along with your child. So it gives a holistic approach when you go into the Head Start program. It touches the whole family, everybody.

Mrs. Bush. The other thing -- I've been briefed on Head Start -- but I'm so thrilled that they get physicals and dentals and hot meals. I mean, it's a wonderful program.

Ms. Clark. Absolutely -- the total comprehensive approach. But to get back to the question in regards to literacy: We do have GED classes that are operating in our program. And what we're finding, and most especially I've seen this in the last couple of weeks -- we have parents that are attending the GED classes. And then some of them are coming to me, letting me know that individuals from their community, or neighbors, are wanting to know, can they attend the classes? So, they're coming back and saying, ``Ms. Clark, can someone else come?'' Or, ``I have a friend, she would like to come into the GED class.'' And we're opening up the doors, of course, and saying yes. And when Senta talks about math being a likable subject to her -- we also have a math and science program that we're initiating. And we're doing this through the National Urban Coalition, who is promoting math and science. And what we're hoping to do through the GED classes is to also extend that into our math and science -- --

Mrs. Bush. That's wonderful.

Mr. Conley. One of the things I would like to just add, too -- when you talk about parents -- is that we recognize that it's not sufficient to just work with the children. That's wonderful, but you've got to do something about the environment from which the families come. And as the overall agency preparing for Head Start, we've been instrumental in accessing other kinds of resources that can impact on the family. As an example, specifically with the parents, is a new program that we have called Project HOPE. That stands for Head Start Opportunities for Parents through Education by Employment.

What we have done was to write for competitive -- which we would receive from the HHS. And with that we were working intensively with a group of parents. We work with 150 people -- well, actually, 75 will be an experimental program because this is a demonstration effort. And we hope by that to be able to show through intensive case work, through education, that we can involve the parents in some kind of a training and job placement and so on. That's going to make them more successful -- --

The President. Good point.

Mr. Brooks. Our goal, of course, is self-sufficiency. Bill is right there. We look forward to a more advanced kind of family planning. I think the leader is doing something magnificent right now. And we just basically believe in the holistic approach. The Head Start child is there because the family is poor. And we're trying our best to come up with strategies to get them out of poverty. One of the problems we, of course, have is that our operating funds come out of community service -- and, of course, that is not in the budget. I talked to the national office this morning and they said that Senator Mark Hatfield would be by to see you to discuss that with you, because he's sponsoring that -- --

The President. You know, it is tough when you have to make choices -- this funding for Head Start dramatically up and then some of these other things. So we'll have to see what we can be helpful in.

Mrs. Bush. How about volunteers in the private sector? Do they get involved?

Ms. Clark. Yes. Yes, they do.

The President. And you're talking about Head Start?

Mrs. Bush. In Head Start, yes. But what -- I mean, do corporations get involved and help? Or -- with equipment? Or volunteers as one on one?

Ms. Clark. Well, we have a lot of one-on-one volunteer efforts that take place. We see the involvement of other community agencies and organizations that work with us. And I think very recently we've had several different agencies that have been calling or sent letters, and maybe Mary Kay might want to speak to a couple of them -- some of the girls that have come in and one of the sororities.

Ms. Dailey. The Methodist children's home here called and they wanted to know if they can send some young ladies. And they were 14 to 17 years old.

Mrs. Bush. Perfect.

Ms. Dailey. I saw that as a beautiful age for the children. And seven of them came last Friday to one of the centers, and the ladies that came were fantastic. Now, what are they going to do? I think if they just go in and sit down with the children, they don't need to tell you what they'll do. And they just went in and they sat a minute, but the children came to them and they went to the children, and they went right off into the afternoon's activities.

The President. What will they do if they keep up their interest? They'll come back once a week or -- --

Ms. Dailey. Yes.

The President. Something like that?

Ms. Dailey. This group will come back once a week every Friday.

The President. Yes.

Ms. Dailey. They gave a commitment to them. So that was really, really a good thing.

Mr. Trelease. As president of the board I guess that makes me the chief volunteer. [Laughter] Your presence and what you just said should help strengthen further efforts getting our community involved. All local people in the room would honestly tell you Columbus is in an era of growth and development unparalleled in its history. That will only remain as strong as the youth in our communities and the involvement of more people in our community. And I think your visit here is -- I can really salute both of you for being here because it underscores the relationship that's needed to move us even further.

Ms. Franklin. I would like to add to that. We have six of our high school children in West Side and in our centers working with our -- what we call the bottom -- who are in our program -- and we're working on a way to eliminate that through the -- [inaudible]. It's been very, very fine in the classrooms.

Mrs. Bush. I hope some corporations will get involved and help you, too.

Ms. Clark. Yes, we're hoping that also.

Mrs. Bush. Maybe with jobs for the parents -- in some fringe way or -- --

The President. You were going to say something, and I think you got preempted, Ms. Jabbar? Or were you? Maybe I had it wrong, but I thought you were getting up there on the edge -- [laughter]. What end of it are you in now?

Ms. Jabbar. I'm a parent in the program, and I'm the policy council chairperson. And the policy council -- --

The President. Here in this installation here?

Ms. Jabbar. Yes.

The President. So, it's a neighborhood -- it's not citywide, in other words?

Ms. Jabbar. It's a countywide.

The President. Countywide. Yes, yes. You have a kid in Head Start now?

Ms. Jabbar. My child was in -- --

The President. Was in, yes.

Ms. Clark. Because she had a 2-year turn as a chairperson.

The President. I see, I see.

Ms. Jabbar. But I've had two kids go through the Head Start program. And when they finished, like Veronika said was that I've grown being involved in the Head Start program and volunteering and so forth. I have grown, and I think with the Head Start program they have given me marketable skills that I know that I can go out and use in the outside world.

The President. You know, a lot of pressure in the communities, of course -- financial, you mentioned a lot of the kids out of impoverished homes and all -- but do you detect a -- is there more interest in parents in trying now, given all the pressures from narcotics in communities all across the whole country? I mean, these pressures -- it's not one neighborhood. I mean, do you find that the pressures of society are making parents more like you, more willing to volunteer and get involved, or not? Or is it -- do we just have to do a lot better in that? Maybe Veronika could help? I mean, I don't know. I'm really asking; I don't have an opinion. I wish your answer was, look, people are waking up, realizing they got to hold these families together, and they're going to do what you did. I'm not sure that we're there yet. We want to try to help as best we can in encouraging this approach. But you get a feeling on it?

Mr. Brooks. Mr. President, I can simply say that when we recruit for this program every year, I have watched the parents grow. And they are growing to a point now where -- we only used to talk to maybe 200 or 300 -- and I went in the room the other day when the recruiting session came, and there were about 700 parents in there.

The President. That is encouraging.

Mr. Brooks. So, I think that the emphasis that you're putting on education is reaching a lot of people. And I don't think you need to shortchange yourself on that. You are causing some things to happen.

The President. Do you all have a program called Cities in Schools in Columbus? New York has it -- one of these where they get -- it's not a Head Start necessarily, but it's to encourage -- it's a mix where the city government and private sector gets involved in trying to get almost -- it's not replacing parents but bolstering -- --

Mrs. Bush. At-risk children.

The President. -- -- at-risk children. Encouraging them to go, seeing that they're not just totally neglected when they leave school and go home. But you don't have that particular program here, I guess. It's a volunteer -- --

Ms. Clark. High school level.

The President. Yes, that's good.

Mr. Trelease. But I think one of the aspects you'd be interested in is the home-based part of the program. We have a parent who is -- --

The President. Shelly, you're on. [Laughter] Your big moment. Address yourself to Dan Rather, wherever he may be. [Laughter]

Ms. Cantrell. Well, I'd like to say about the home base is that it's important for us because we live in a rural area and the bus doesn't come to us. And without the home base, my child wouldn't be in Head Start. And I have a time now each week where we have a one-on-one together. And it helps every day, because we have an activity to work on. And I don't think without the Head Start I would be as conscious of what my children need for their education.

Mrs. Bush. Does someone come to your house one day a week?

Q. Every Monday she comes for an hour and a half and she tells us an activity to work on. And it could be colors or shapes. This week we're working on matching.

Mrs. Bush. But she sets you up for the week?

Q. Yes. And then she'll come back and she'll ask us how we did -- if my child is ready to do that part. There was an activity that she just wasn't ready to do yet, and so we changed it to something that my child is ready to do. And it's like you say, ready to learn -- she's getting ready.

The President. That's encouraging.

Mrs. Bush. You have more than one child?

Q. I have three.

Mrs. Bush. That keeps you pretty busy.

The President. Ms. Bostic, you've been strangely silent here. Now, you're entitled -- equal time here.

Ms. Bostic. Okay. I was thinking in terms of Head Start really, unlike a lot of programs, reaches out to parents. And we do have families that have very serious problems, more serious than years ago when I first started. But we don't give up on them, and we do go out -- and we have a lot of opportunities for them to get involved. Maybe not necessarily in the classroom, but doing things at home, coming to meetings, or even working with an individual. So, I think our approach to reaching out has made a difference. We don't wait for parents to come to us.

Ms. Clark. Some of that we can see in our average daily attendance. You know, with the Head Start regulations, we have a triggering point, which is 85 percent average daily attendance, that we know we must maintain. And what we've been seeing over this past school year is that we had parents that are sending their children 100 percent of the time. And then we have -- outside our council level, we let the different centers know, so parents are now beginning to compete with one another -- their center against another center as to how many of us can get our kids here every day. So, when we talk about parent involvement, to me that's a part of the starting point. When I see that parents are bringing their children every day, that's a starter. Then there are some that do work in the classroom or some who come to the parent meetings, but we know that they are all involved to some degree.

We're going to have to begin to wrap up, right after my supervisor speaks. [Laughter]

Mr. Conley. I see that you're on a schedule and I saw the cue for us to begin to wrap up, but I think we would be remiss if we didn't point out to you the drawings that the children did.

The President. Let's see these.

Mr. Conley. Some of which are portraits of you and Mrs. Bush. [Laughter]

Mrs. Bush. I don't see me yet.

The President. Here you are. [Laughter]

Mrs. Bush. What's your waiting list?

Ms. Clark. Our waiting list? We've been maintaining something like about 800 children on a waiting list. So, we're really looking forward to the expansion, because we have a lot of individuals that call and we just aren't able to serve them all.

Mrs. Bush. I think yours is better than mine is. [Laughter]

The President. What are you talking about?

Ms. Clark. There's another one up there.

Mrs. Bush. Identical. [Laughter]

The President. So sweet.

Mr. Conley. And we'd also like you to know that we're extremely proud of our Head Start staff and -- --

Ms. Clark. Child Development Associate Credential -- that's a competency-based credential that HHS encourages our staff to receive. And at the present, 80 percent of our staff are to be degreed or credentialed with the competency-based credentials.

The President. That's great. Well, everybody I hope had a say, but I really appreciate this opportunity to learn. It's funny, you go -- you wonder -- all the lights and the kind of hustle and the holding rooms -- but it all adds up. I mean, you do this and then, tomorrow, well, maybe have a chance. And Barbara will come home and say what she did at the hospital or the school, you know. And I think it's a wonderful thing that we feel kind of uplifted when we get -- we love living in this beautiful house that this guy drew over here. [Laughter] It's got two windows and a door. But it is wonderful, and I appreciate you all taking the time to help explain it to us.

Q. Okay, and on behalf of all of us here in our total program, I would like to thank you and Mrs. Bush very, very much. And I hope that God will continue to bless you in your leadership, to protect us and to lead us.

The President. Well, thank you so much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:02 p.m. at St. Aloysius Family Service Center.

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