Thursday February 28, 2013

I would like to respond to William Vogt's letter of Feb. 22 ("Head Start is a preschool failure.") I agree with Michelle Gillett's op-ed column of Feb. 19 that "Preschools definitely work." Head Start is one of those working preschool programs.

I am curious about Mr. Vogt's connection with Head Start other than the studies he alluded to. I have a personal connection to Head Start. I was extremely fortunate to have been a manager in several capacities in the Berkshire County Head Start program for the last 30 years, retiring in 2012. I can speak with some authority about why this wonderful program should continue.

Head Start was the brainchild of President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, designed to give children living in poverty a chance to go to preschool for one year before they would enter kindergarten. This would give them a head start. They would be on a level playing field with their peers when they entered school. It began here in Pittsfield that year as a summer program. Head Start was designed by experts not only in the field of education but also in areas such as health, disabilities, social services, parental involvement, nutrition and transportation. The standards took into account the child and the family.

All statistics, studies and polls do not necessarily tell the entire story of the successes that happen while attending the Head Start program for one year or in the future.


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How was the information gathered and against what standards and criteria were Head Start programs measured? Berkshire County Head Start has had many success stories. Head Start is so well-designed that many public schools have tried to emulate it and have been unsuccessful. Where would the letter writer suggest that preschool children living in poverty receive a program that assists them in beginning school on a level playing field with their peers? How would it be funded and by whom?

Head Start cannot solve all of the problems our country is facing, but it can provide the best preschool experience for the child and the family prior to kindergarten. Head Start has been around for 48 years. It must be doing something right!

SALLY CLARK OLSEN

Pittsfield