Thursday, May. 17th 2018

Head Start’s Everyday Champions – Celebrating 53 years of community support

By Edward Condon, R9HSA Executive Director


This is celebration season for schools: Thousands of young folks have graduated and on their way in life. Meanwhile, educators everywhere are getting ready to welcome kindergarten students arriving next fall. Among those youngsters are our local Head Start children.

Head Start—which celebrates its 53rd anniversary this month—provides economically disadvantaged children to age five a pathway to success by offering services—educational, social and health—to them and their families.

When we consider what makes Head Start programs successful—we naturally look inward at our teachers, administrators and the engagement of parents. But there are other people involved who are outside of Head Start, and they play a vital role in how well Head Start families do. These are the leaders of elementary schools. They are what I like to call Head Start Everyday Champions in the community, preparing our youngsters for the next waypoint in their lives after they leave Head Start.

Spring is typically the time when Head Start children are introduced to their kindergarten teacher and classroom, when they are prepared for the transition into elementary school. How well this orientation is shaped, how effective is the transition is hugely dependent upon the cooperation and collaboration with these leaders of the elementary school—the principals and superintendents. They are vital to us in Head Start.

In fact, a study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research found that the most effective leaders in a district are those that focus more on culture than curriculum. For Head Start children transitioning to kindergarten, that’s the heart of the matter—being received by a welcoming culture.

I’m sure we all can remember our child’s entry into kindergarten—or even our own first day: A time mixed with equal parts of excitement and anxiety. With children from economically distressed families, success in elementary school is even that much more vital, so starting off on the right foot is critical. You can read more about our Everyday Champions here and their strategies to help Head Start students take that next big step.

That’s the good news on a local level. Nationally, over the past decade, Head Start often has been a program that congressional and administration leaders have considered for significant changes in funding structure—either in the amount or how the funds are administered.

But in news out of Washington, D.C., educators have something now to cheer about. They are encouraged by the appointment of a former public school teacher and principal—Dr. Deborah Bergeron—a leader in the education field, who will serve as the new director of Office of Head Start in the nation’s capital. So we now have a professional educator with boots-on-the-ground experience in public schools leading Head Start nationally—and that’s worth celebrating, too.

No matter your industry or profession, you can find many definitions of leadership styles and practices. All basically drive to this point: A good leader makes good things happen. We are fortunate to have elementary school teachers, principals and superintendents—our Head Start Everyday Champions—make good things happen for some of our most vulnerable children in California, the western states and across the country.

Edward Condon is executive director of Region 9 Head Start Association, which covers four western states and islands in the Pacific. He can be reached at

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The Vision

All children, regardless of their circumstance at birth, deserve a full and prosperous life.

The Mission

  • Support high-impact Head Start programs for children and adults by creating opportunities for collaboration, networking and information sharing.
  • Unite with state and national Head Start organizations to ensure regulatory and budget outcomes that support our work.
  • Champion the message that every child and family who succeeds makes their community a better place.
  • Provide resources to assist our members in compliance and professional development.

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