Saturday, October 28, 2006


Thursday, after being informed that it's federal and state funds for various programmes would be pulled, the board of the Polk County Opportunity Council decided not to challenge the regulatory decisions. That means, in effect, that the agency will dissolve within a few months after 27 years of service to the poor of Polk and Highlands counties.

PCOC is best known as being the community action agency that provides the area's Head Start programme for pre-kindergarten age children, but it also assisted low income residents with their utility bills and provided winterization services for the homes of poor elderly residents, among other services.

However, the past several years have been filled with drama. Sloppy recordkeeping and fiscal management, ethical misconduct by a couple of executive directors, and a board of directors who seemed at times to be more concerned in self preservation than in seriously addressing the problems have now brought down PCOC. Finally, after over a year of review, state and federal administrators said that enough was enough and are pulling the plug on it's funding.

It is sad that an agency such as PCOC, which was founded and supposed to be run by people in the community who best know the issues of disadvantaged children, low income families and the elderly, has come to it's eventual demise in this way. But it is probably the only thing that could have been done in order to eventually better serve the people it intended, considering the seriousness of the problems it faced. While the board of directors have made some progress over the past few months, the agency's issues were simply too steep a mountain to overcome.

Polk County School Superintendent Dr. Gail McKinzie has expressed interest in the school district taking over the Head Start programme, and other agencies will eventually step up to offer many of the other services that PCOC offered. I4J certainly hopes the transition period won't be long.


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