Wednesday, July 6, 2022

This Williamsburg nonprofit just got $1.3 million from the feds. $950K of that would go to salaries, bonuses

(WYDaily/Courtesy of Pixabay)

The Williamsburg James City County Community Action Agency was recently awarded a $1.3 million federal grant for its Head Start program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Less than a fifth of the grant ––about $270,000–– will go directly to the Head Start program for rent, transportation costs, food and school supplies for the children.

The remainder of the grant, roughly $950,000, will be allocated for staff salaries including bonuses, said Tressell Carter, executive director for the WJCC Community Action Agency, a nonprofit agency located in the Historic Triangle Messmer Community Services Center which provides a variety of services to the community.

She did not elaborate.

“Head Start is an income qualified program,” Carter said.

Carter added the program is for children 3 to 5 years old and has a “hierarchy of need,” prioritizing children who are displaced, homeless or in foster care before opening up slots for the classroom the children from low-income families.

“We put 84 children into kindergarten in WJCC Public Schools,” Carter said.

The nonprofit currently operates eight Head Start classrooms: Four at the Historic Triangle Community Services Center, two in James River Elementary School and two in Norge Elementary School. She said the agency advertises to the community about the Head Start program with flyers and schools let the parents know as well.

Carter said the Head Start classrooms operate similar to public schools classrooms with a curriculum and certified childhood development professionals as opposed to a state mandated curriculum and certified teachers. In addition to providing the children materials such as notebooks and other school supplies, the program also gives each child meals — a hot breakfast, snack lunch and evening snack.

The nonprofit has to match 20 percent of the grant.

Carter said the 20 percent match is considered a “non-federal share” and doesn’t necessarily have to be a cash donation –– it could be “in-kind services,” such as a dental office agreeing to provide free dental screenings to the children in the Head Start program.

When asked how the nonprofit was going to match the grant with dental screenings or cash donations, she said it was just an example of how the nonprofit could match the grant.

She did not elaborate.

Carter added the grant could be applied to offices of the agency that are “indirectly” involved with the Head Start program.

The rent of the Head Start program’s eight classrooms from the WJCC Public Schools is $239,301 but the agency only pays $85,896, getting a discounted rent of in-kind services, Carter added.

The overhead costs of the Head Start program, including the federal share, is $1,660,206 a year. She did not say how many employees the nonprofit has.

When asked for the amount of donations the agency received last fiscal year for the Head Start program, Carter said she did not have the figure on hand and it would take time to calculate since the donations include in-kind services and she was in the middle of prepping for the school year.

When WYDaily asked about how much money the staff and other personnel would receive from this grant, Carter kept talking about monetary amounts related to the previous grant the agency received.

It remains unclear how the nonprofit plans to match the grant.

Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, said Bright Beginnings, an early childhood education program for children ages 2 to 4 years old run by the school district, evaluates approximately 160 students in the Head Start program.

“Any Head Start student who fails developmental screenings, or who is referred by Head Start, will be evaluated for special education services by WJCC Bright Beginnings Staff,” Cox wrote in an email. “Any child found eligible for special education services will be provided special education services by Bright Beginnings Staff.”

It’s unclear why the participants of the Head Start program are evaluated by public school employees.

Cox noted she was unaware of where the WJCC Community Action Agency in the Historic Triangle Community Services building was located and had to look it up.

In a joint statement about the Head Start federal grants, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said:

“The Head Start program plays an important role in helping schools and organizations across the Commonwealth get the resources they need to support young children. “We’re excited to announce this funding that promotes early childhood development.”

The $1,328,165 grant is for fiscal year 2020 only and the WJCC CAA was one of five other entities, including Richmond City Public Schools, to receive a grant for its Head Start programs.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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