322 employees laid off from Duval Co. Head Start

Employees laid off as company restructures Head Start

By Joy Purdy - 5:30, 6:30 & 11 p.m. anchor, Elizabeth Berry

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - More than 300 Head Start and Early Head Start employees learned they were being laid off Wednesday.

The new manager of Florida's Head Start programs visited Duval County employees and the Tampa-based Lutheran Services Florida explained Wednesday to inform current employees that as of July 1 they'll oversee the federal Head Start program.

"I'd like to be able to tell you that we can tell you exactly what's going to happen but we can't," said CEO of LSF Sam Sipes. "We have a job fair scheduled for the first week in May, when all of the different Head Start employers will be there with all of the different positions listed, and staff will have an opportunity to talk with each of the future employers."

Snipes told the 322 employees who are being laid off that they expect to rehire many of them and that they all will be allowed to reapply for their jobs.

Sipes said LSF will honor employees seniority when they reapply for jobs, and that they are also waiving the waiting period for health insurance once employees are rehired. Sipes told the crowd Wednesday night LSF will help former employees find new jobs as well.

"It's our intention to have everyone know by May 31 what their new positions will be with Lutheran Services," said Sipes.

Even though staffing issues are not clear, Sipes said the overall goal is to improve Florida's Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

"To make sure these kids are in the best facilities we can provide them," said Sipes.

LSF won't be the only Head Start employer; the company has nine partners in Duval County and will team up with those partners to hire. LSF is also looking at facilities and negotiating with landlords for additional facilities. The company encouraged employees to go to LSF's website to apply for positions and check on LSF's progress as they transition into managing the Head Start programs in Duval County. 

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