On March 19, 2019, Head Start/Early Head Start of Beaver County (HS/EHS of Beaver Co) welcomed Congressman Conor Lamb to visit the program and learn about the benefits of Head Start and Early Head Start of the families within the 17th Congressional District. Congressman Lamb was elected to the US House of Representatives on January 3, 2019 and represents PA’s 17th Congressional District which includes parts of Allegheny and Butler Counties as well as all of Beaver County. Congressman Lamb has recently opened an office in Beaver County and is getting to know the people and programs within his district.
The Congressman’s visit to New Brighton High School Head Start classroom was Lamb’s first visit with a Head Start Program. During his visit, the Congressman spoke with two parents, Joe Guarino Superintendent of New Brighton School District, Jason Hall New Brighton Elementary School Principal, Shujuane Martin Senior Vice President of Early Childhood at the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc., Tami Ozegovich Director of HS/EHS of Beaver Co, Crystal Kuharski Assistant Director of HS/EHS of Beaver Co, Natalie Meade Parent Family Community Engagement Manager for HS/EHS of Beaver Co, a Pennsylvania Head Start Association Representative as well as the children and education staff of the classroom. His visit allowed the Congressman to met with staff, administration and parents to learn about the Head Start program, the partnership between a school district and Head Start programming and also the importance of funding Head Start. Families were giving the opportunity to discuss the benefits of the HS and EHS programs as well as what could improve about the programs. Families discussed how the Head Start program was a value in providing quality education, meals and even transportation for our preschool aged children. One family in particular spoke about the Early Head Start programming needing more slots to support the need of infants and toddler age children in Beaver County.
Discussion topics also included staffing and teacher pay, behaviors and increasing funding for trauma support in the classroom. Due to the increase in opioid addiction within the area, Head Start programs need increased funding to provide more training on trauma informed care as well as more staff to support each child’s individual needs. Also by increasing the funding per child, the program could pay teachers higher hourly wages, support more professional development and smaller teacher to child class ratios. Research shows that teachers are showing signs of compassion fatigue working with the children and their families who have trauma related needs. This is affecting the entire cycle of Head Start services which we still need to be the most efficient programming to continue to support our poverty stricken and resource needy families.
After hearing about the benefits of Head Start programs as well as how they can improve, Congressman Lamb visited the classroom where he experienced firsthand learning and interacting through play with the children. Congressman Lamb was able to see the children at their most crucial learning time which is free choice time. The Congressman also engaged in conversation at large group time where the children then gave the Congressman art work they created.