LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- For several hours Thursday, the ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn on Crittenden Drive was transformed into a classroom. The students were members of the Jefferson County Board of Education, parents and educators studying the topic of the district's Head Start program.
"We're working together to make sure that we meet the needs of our students and not just put something on paper that sounds good," JCPS interim superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said.
Thursday's training session is one of several sessions held over the past two weeks after more than a dozen allegations of abuse in JCPS's federally-funded Head Start and Early Head Start programs surfaced in a report from the National Office of Head Start. Some of these allegations included employees force-feeding a student, flipping a student off a cot, and hitting and yanking children. Seven employees have since been fired and the Jefferson County Board of Education has since approved and began implementing a corrective action plan.
"It was an agreement that we had with Head Start that as we move forward, that everyone was going to be trained. They were going to provide the training," Pollio said.
According to Pollio, the Head Start program is a significant part of education in Jefferson County, helping to prepare children for school by giving them an early classroom experience.
"Plus, it's important that we help mitigate the effects of poverty, so every single kid has the opportunity for pre-K work," he said.
"It's critically important for our children and our families and for their education," Diane Porter, the Board of Education member representing District 1, said. "It's the start of their education."
School leaders like Porter said despite the allegations of abuse, Head Start does have a lot of benefit for the students and families in Jefferson County, and it is up to the education leaders to make sure the problems that have been raised are addressed.
"We want it to be correct," Porter said. "So, when we're told we need to do better and make it more correct, it's our responsibility to do that."
"I want to reiterate the vast majority of them, 99 percent of them are effective teachers, great classroom environments, kids are laughing, learning, having fun," Pollio said. "We've got to make sure we're doing the right thing in 100 percent of them and we're committed to doing that."
According to Pollio, Head Start is expected to give JCPS feedback after the trainings have concluded and will continue to closely monitor the district's programs. He said there is no timeline as to when that feedback will come.