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Head Start board to appeal federal suspension

August 1, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — PACE Head Start’s board chairman admits board directors made mistakes leading up to the organization’s recent suspension by the Administration for Children and Families. Willie Sims also says an appeal of that suspension is in the works.

Sims told The Hattiesburg American (http://hatne.ws/1saC5fM) Thursday the necessary paperwork to file an appeal had not yet been sent to the national Office of Head Start in Atlanta. That office is under the purview of the Administration for Children and Families, an arm of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re in the process (of appealing),” he said.

The administration suspended all federal financial assistance to the Hattiesburg based PACE on July 24. It said the organization did not have an effective system in place to ensure the safety of children when an allegation of abuse is made.

The following day, Community Development Institute Head Start took over management of PACE and fired all 176 employees, including Executive Director Peggy Answorth.

CDI Head Start held a job fair Thursday, requiring all former employees interested in getting their jobs back to submit applications.

Sims said part of the reason for the appeal would be to make sure all PACE employees kept their jobs.

The trouble at PACE began in February 2012 when the mother of a 3-year-old boy alleged he had been sexually abused by a teacher at the Hattiesburg High School Head Start Center. The Administration for Children and Families said PACE failed for more than two years to ensure the allegation was investigated by the proper authorities and also failed during that same time period to remove the accused teacher from the classroom.

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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