The important Head Start professional you may not be thinking about

The important Head Start professional you may not be thinking about

The more I take in guidance from the Office of Head Start about high-quality Head Start programs, the more I am struck by the importance of Human Resources professionals in Head Start.  I’m convinced that the HR professional may be a hidden superhero of Head Start programs!



Coordinated approaches are a good example.  At the beginning of each new program year, Head Start agencies must design and implement approaches to (1) training and professional development, (2) the full and effective participation of children with disabilities, (3) the full and effective participation of dual language learners, and (4) the management of program data.

The coordinated approach to training and professional development is an obvious fit for the HR professional.  While employee supervisors may be doing on-the-ground work of creating individualized professional development plans, meeting with employees to set goals, and evaluating progress towards the goals, the HR professional creates the overarching system for this effort.  She may set up standardized processes for setting goals and evaluating progress, she may track data to ensure the agency is moving towards its own program goals, and she may ensure that efforts are being documented in a way that can satisfy reviewers.

The role of HR professionals isn’t just limited to areas typically thought of as HR functions, like professional development.  During a recent webinar on the new Dual Language Learners Program Assessment (DLLPA), the Office of Head Start emphasized the role of HR in promoting the full and effective participation of dual language learners.  The instructions to the tool indicate that HR managers should be involved in the self-assessment, and there is an entire section on evaluating the HR component of the program-wide approach.

And the involvement of HR managers doesn’t stop with coordinated approaches.

We all know that having qualified staff is a crucial part of complying with state licensing and Head Start performance standards.  Who can help foster a talent pipeline so that you can fill positions quickly when there is a last-minute need?  The HR professional!

Violating the code of conduct is  common source of deficiency findings.  Who can help a program avoid a deficiency finding when there is such a violation by, in advance, implementing strong personnel policies, procedures and training and, after the fact, assessing consistent and appropriate discipline?  The HR professional!

And who can work with the governing body and policy council to make sure they are appropriately consulted on employment matters, but also understand the need for confidentiality and discretion?  Did you say the HR professional?


So what does this mean for your program?

First, clone your HR manager.


Then, make sure that the employees in your HR department have their own training and professional development.  Not just in HR best practices (although that’s important too).  But high-quality cross-training in the Head Start Program Performance Standards.  Training that is specifically designed for HR professionals who work with Head Start programs can help HR managers understand the goals of the systems they establish and oversee.  It can help them spot areas for innovation and enable them to design approaches that make sense from both the HR and the Head Start perspective.  It will also give them the knowledge they need to highlight their efforts and successes during monitoring reviews.


So, don’t underestimate the importance of a superhero in your program!  Make sure that HR professionals have the knowledge and competency they need to make valuable contributions to your program.

For more articles and resources for HR professionals and Head Start, click here.  If you’re interested in our webinars and in-person training for HR professionals, click here.

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