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Williams Head Start struggles with lack of staff

Head Start is a federally funded pre-school program. (Photo/WGCN)

Head Start is a federally funded pre-school program. (Photo/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — In spite of having a new building and new programming, the Williams Head Start is facing notable challenges with staffing and funding in Williams.

Run by the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG), the program serves children and their families in the community.

Head Start is a federally funded school readiness program for children, prenatal to age 5. Head Start provides services to eligible children and families in the areas of early learning, health and family well-being, while engaging parents and guardians as partners, every step of the way. Head Start includes preschool programs that serve children 3-5 years old, and Early Head Start programs for infants, toddlers and pregnant women.

In June, the Williams Head Start expanded its offering to include 2-year-olds and replaced its aging facility with a new building. However, insufficient staffing is keeping the program from utilizing all of the space.

“They need teachers and teacher assistants. And we’ve got a brand new facility and it’s beautiful, but not to be able to use it just because of the shortage of staff is disappointing,” Williams Mayor Don Dent said.

The staffing shortage has been an ongoing issue in Northern Arizona for school districts and other Head Start programs as well.

Dent added that while the city of Williams has attempted to assist the program with staffing, it is ultimately NACOG’s administration to complete the program. The organization has kitchen positions available, but Head Start mainly needs teachers and teacher assistants.

In an effort to draw more applicants and improve employee retention, the NACOG Regional Council has increased salaries and created incentive programs to help employees with their education in childcare and teaching, according to Dent.

Another contributing issue is the lack of affordable housing in Williams. Williams Head Start claimed that many applicants have turned down job offers due to their struggle to find a place to live.

Dent added that with the implementation of cheaper housing or an affordable housing plan, Head Start might have a better chance for improvement with overall staff retention.

Northern Arizona Council of Governments-NACOG, serves the four northern Arizona counties with 30 locations and 11 home-based programs offering services to prenatal-3-year-olds in the comfort of their own home. NACOG spans 27,000 square miles and serves just under 1,000 families and children.

Positions for part-time and full-time jobs are available on NACOG’s website at nacog.org.

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