Duval County’s Head Start teachers got word Wednesday their pink slips are coming since a new company is set to take over the early learning centers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those teachers are out of a job.
The teachers hired to work at Duval County’s Head Start centers were hired by a federal contractor, Community Development Institute. That organization hands over the operation of the centers to Lutheran Services Florida on June 1.
Since Community Development Institute won’t be running services anymore, all of its employees are technically out of a job, but the new Head Start provider will give all of the employees a chance to be rehired, said Sam Sipes, president and CEO of Lutheran Services Florida.
Head Start teachers’ last day will be May 31, and Lutheran Services Florida takes over the program on June 1. Sipes said employees should know whether they’ve been hired before that transition happens.
Employees are encouraged to attend a job fair on May 6 and 7 where Lutheran Services Florida and its nine contracted childcare providers will be looking for employees.
The location and time of the job fair hadn’t been set as of Thursday and will be announced in the coming weeks.
Sipes said he didn’t know how many slots will be available when his organization takes over the Head Start programs, but he estimates there will be more jobs than currently available because Lutheran Services Florida will be teaching more children than the current operator.
Lutheran Services Florida aims to have 1,409 children in its Head Start programs and 309 in its Early Head Start programs, Sipes said. He said the current provider’s centers weren’t full, so he expects adding more children will mean more available jobs.
Lutheran Services Florida needs to add about 700 children before centers reopen in August, said Susan Main, President and CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Duval County.
That doesn’t mean all of the current Head Start teachers will have a job come June 1. Sipes said employees will need to have certain training to get rehired, such as having an early learning degree to be a Head Start teacher.
The layoff and rehiring process is a typical part of the process whenever a federal provider steps in to take over Head Start offices, Main said. Community Development Institute took over the programs after the last provider, Jacksonville Urban League, shut down due to safety concerns.
Sipes said any employees rehired won’t have to deal with a health insurance waiting period and will retain their seniority. For example, an employee who’s worked for Head Start for 15 years who is rehired will keep all the benefits given to someone who’s worked there for 15 years.
Anyone who isn’t rehired will be given free access to job search services by Lutheran Services Florida.
Meredith Rutland: (904) 359-4161