New Head Start director takes over in county
by Briana Webster
Aug 13, 2013 | 2127 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Steve Rowe, the new director of the Walker County Head Start program, looks over paperwork in his office this week.  Photo by: Briana Webster.
Steve Rowe, the new director of the Walker County Head Start program, looks over paperwork in his office this week. Photo by: Briana Webster.
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Steve Rowe, the new director of the Walker County Head Start program, is thrilled to be starting a new position this year; however, he is no stranger to education.

Rowe has obtained 23 years in the education field, and only six of those were spent outside of the Walker County district. He began his teaching career in Eldridge before the school shut down due to proration.

“I kind of had to go where the job was when I first graduated from college,” Rowe said with a smile. “You’d love to work at home, but sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way.” 

Rowe then went on to teach and coach in Moundville at Hale County High School for six years. An opportunity opened up for Rowe at Cordova prior to him spending six years at Oakman as a teacher, coach and then as assistant principal. But, he has spent the last 10 years as principal of Curry Elementary.

During last week’s board of education meeting, board members and the superintendent approved the Head Start reports and information packets, charts, matrix and handbooks for the 2013-2014 school year. According to the Alabama Head Start Association’s website, “Since its inception in 1965, more than 20 million children and families nationally have benefited from Head Start’s comprehensive services.” There are 36 programs statewide with more than 17,000 students enrolled. Rowe said the federally-funded program has been in place in Walker County for 31 years, and it will serve 237 students this year.

“That is the number that our grant funds for this coming school year ... The size of the classroom dictates how many children can be in a program,” Rowe said. “We are in 10 elementary schools in the county; we’ll have 13 classrooms this year.” 

There is not a deadline for registering your child or for picking up and filling out an application, but families must meet a certain criteria for their child(ren) to be eligible. Recruitment starts in early spring and goes through May. Rowe said the Head Start regulations have become stricter over the years, and a person must have the following in order to register a potential student: income verification (W-2 form, income tax return, payroll check stub, etc.), birth certificate or birth verification and professional diagnosis of disability (if applicable).

The Head Start Student Handbook states that “points are assigned to each application based on the following criteria, income, age, parental status, special needs and other concerns. We maintain a waiting list and fill vacancies as they occur up to our cut off date.” 

The program consists of four school readiness goals in these categories: education, health, nutrition and social, as well as others areas where the program tries to help the families. The school readiness goals and family engagement school readiness goals are similar to primary and secondary education improvement plans, which basically asks the question “how can we improve what we’re doing for children so that they’re more ready for school when they exit the program,” Rowe mentioned.

Students attend Head Start for approximately six hours a day, generally from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. With the sites being located at area elementary schools, the transition from Head Start to kindergarten runs much smoother for kids and parents.

This year the Walker County Head Start program is scheduled to be monitored by the state, which means a team will be sent to observe the program and see that they’re in compliance with all the federal guidelines and to help make recommendations for improving the program, “and that’s one thing that I’m kind of excited about. Our funding is dependent upon a successful monitoring,” Rowe added.

Classrooms are filling up quickly, so if you’re interested in filling out an application and giving your child a head start, call the office at 205-387-0555.

“We’re trying to serve the kids that really need to be served in Walker County and give them a head start. ... I want to meet all of our teachers and staff and see how we can make the program better for the children and families in our school district,” Rowe said. “I’m really looking forward (to starting the school year). This is a great group of people, and we’ve got a great program. The challenge is what can we do to improve?”