To Readers of the Buffalo News,
Unfortunately, as you’ve now repeatedly seen, the Buffalo News and its “reporters” are expert at selecting and parsing information in ways that denigrate and disrespect the CAO, relying on only limited data to claim under-performance. This is again the case with the April 25 story about our fine Head Start programs. But before I get into that, please let me show you how slippery and insidious this coverage continues to be. In the original February 2019 stories, the newspaper reported that board members were removed in order to stop a forensic audit that was already underway. In subsequent stories and editorials, the newspaper reported that federal, state and county agencies were “investigating” the CAO. What did the reporters write today?
“Meanwhile, the FBI and State Attorney General’s Office have begun asking questions about the nonprofit’s governance and financial dealings. Six board members were removed in January, three months after four of those directors voted to … hire a forensic auditor to look for possible fraud in the agency’s books.”
While we can see that the newspaper is surreptitiously catching up with the facts as we’ve maintained them all along, where are its corrections? Where are its notes to its readers who still believe the earlier stories, which were obviously exaggerated, factless and overwrought? Why is BTF President Phil Rumore allowed to publish a letter to the editor correcting errors he said the newspaper made in writing about him, but the newspaper won’t let me publish a letter to correct errors that I say the newspaper made in reporting about me?
This sort of thing continues in the April 25th story and the self-serving editorial the News published April 26th. While the newspaper describes several factors that are evaluated in Head Start programs — there are actually 10 – the newspaper only cites the exact score of one, a 2.1. Yes, that is too low, but it’s been fully corrected, as specifically stated on Feb. 6, 2019 by our federal regulators. In fact the News’ own article reports that the findings identified in previous federal reviews were all corrected.
The News further declared that the CAO’s Head Start programs were in the lower 10 percent of such programs nationally. But, again, you have to read things very closely to see how the reporter intentionally shades the information. In fact, as you can see below, most of CAO’s Head Start programs perform at or near national averages and means on the 10 factors. All the numbers are reported below, and you can see for yourself. Should some of these numbers improve? Yes.
And the fact is, they did. But you had to read to the 30th paragraph in the newspaper, the one that makes the other 29 paragraphs irrelevant, to find out that:
“This area of noncompliance is corrected,” federal reviewers wrote Feb. 6 to CAO. “No corrective action is required at this time.”
“Dredging up various things from prior reviews is irrelevant,” Hare said in an email to The Buffalo News, noting the Administration for Children and Families in the Feb. 6 letter “has affirmed that all ‘identified findings have been closed’ and ‘no corrective action is required at this time.’ ”
Those aren’t my words, they come from Dr. Barbara Bergeron, national director of Head Start. Her full comment is: “Based on the information gathered during our review, we have closed the previously identified findings. Accordingly, no corrective action is required at this time.” Is Dr. Bergeron’s name anywhere in the newspaper’s story today? No, the quote is attributed to “federal reviewers.”
And who are these [as the newspaper soft-pedals them] “federal reviewers?” They are the inspectors from the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who gave our Head Start programs a clean bill of health on all present and past operations.
Then why does the newspaper devote 50-something paragraphs to years-ago reports? Maybe because they are fond of the past? Years ago, the newspaper sold almost 400,000 copies on its best day. Today it barely sells an average of 100,000. Connection?
To show you the full picture, not the doctored snapshot the newspaper offered today, I gathered more information addressing the substance of this latest effort to malign the CAO.
First, the attached letter, dated March 22, 2019, states that the CAO’s Early Childhood Daycare Partnership program has qualified for a non-competitive renewal of its contract starting March 1, 2020. Contrary to what the newspaper has stated, there has been no notification from the Office of Head Start which said CAO’s programs in Erie County would have to compete for renewal. Only Niagara’s will, as we told the reporter. A useful comment by the newspaper would be laudatory of CAO efforts to compete for and be awarded those Niagara County programs after the prior operator was decertified. There are many challenges in such an effort (in aging facilities, staffing and other areas) that CAO has addressed with great effort. But the newspaper seems to see no value in any of that.
Second, the first table below provides the national maximum, minimum and mean or average scores in the three domains the Office of Head Start evaluates. The second row in the Erie County and Niagara County tables below include the domain scores. The third to sixth rows reflect the score for subsets of each of the three domains.
These are on a score of 1-7. The newspaper in reviewing scores, only cited one, a 2.1 and then asked a university researcher in New Jersey if that was bad. Of course that’s not a good score. And we work every day to improve all our scores. But as you can see, and as the newspaper neglected to tell its readers, we also have 4s, 5s, and 6s, with some scores being significantly better than national minimums.
Why would the newspaper single out one score, when there are 10?! Don’t believe me, and certainly don’t believe the newspaper. See for yourself.
March 22, 2019
Community Action Organization of Erie County, Inc.
Re: Grant No. 02HP0020
Dear Head Start Grantee:
The Office of Head Start (OHS) has determined that your program is currently eligible for a non-competitive five
year grant award to operate the Head Start program.
Should your program meet one of the conditions specified under 45 CFR Part 1304.12 prior to your new award,
your agency must report to your Regional Office using HSES Correspondence within 10 working days of
occurrence. If OHS determines that your agency has met one of the conditions under 45 CFR Part 1304.11 prior to
award, your designation will change and you will receive notice that your organization will instead be required to
compete for funding.
You must file a complete Form SF-429 with Attachment A (Real Property Status Report) to establish the existence
of property subject to a federal interest for which your organization (or a delegate agency) holds title prior to award.
If you anticipate not being able to meet the above timeframe or requirements, notify your Regional Grants
Management Officer via HSES Correspondence.
Congratulations on your non-competitive designation and thank you for your continued work on behalf of children
and families. Please direct questions to your Regional Office.
Office of Head Start