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Mel Gravely
December-19-2023

The Gravely Group 2023 Year in Review

Every year, The Gravely Group posts a Year in Review of all the top stories from The Gravely Group, as well as some of the top news for Head Start nationwide. In 2023, there were two big themes from The Gravely Group and Head Start: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) and Safety.

Let’s start with DEI&B.  In January, we posted our first blog on the subject, “What is Head Start’s New Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging Initiative?,” in which we introduced our DEI training and reminded programs of the new federal requirements.

“In the wake of increasing awareness about the positive outcomes associated with DEI&B strategies and fostering diverse workforce populations to serve diverse communities, Executive Order 14035 was signed into law in June 2021,” we explained. “The order charges federally funded programs, including Head Start agencies, to establish strategies to address inequities and promote diversity, belonging, and inclusion in organizational structures and systems.”

We admitted that most programs were still in the dark about what that meant for them. So in March, we hoped to get into the details a bit further in our next blog, “What are the DEI&B Requirements for Head Start Programs?”

“From a government standpoint, this initiative is still very, very new,” we wrote. “It is still in the early stages of implementation. It’s going to take some time for the plan to come to fruition.”

We were clear that Head Start’s day-to-day work would not change, but that DEI&B training for staff would be valuable to help programs prepare. We even recommended dual training in DEI&B and Multicultural Principles as a package to really help programs kickstart their diversity initiatives.

“Keep in mind that the Head Start Performance Standards is still the primary governing document for all Head Start grantees,” we wrote. “The initiative will not change how grantees approach their day-to-day work. But what the ACF (Administration for Children & Families) is asking, is that grantees refocus some of that work through the DEIB lens. Think about ways you could expand or tweak some of your existing tasks to allow you to reach a more diverse audience or make others feel more included and valued.”

Another big story in 2023 was safety. In our blog, “Enhancing Safe Practices in Your Head Start Program,” we explained how, at the end of 2022, the Office of Inspector General issued a report that found that nearly one in four Head Start grantees received an adverse finding for safety issues during the five year period that they studied. The Office of Head Start responded quickly, making child safety one of the top priorities for 2023 and beyond, including as part of the monitoring review process.

“It is important that program leaders understand the Office of Head Start’s requirements for creating and maintaining safe, quality environments, as well as know strategies to address gaps that may lead to an unsafe environment,” we said in our blog. “OHS has made clear that they are taking a renewed focus on safety in the post-pandemic era, and it will be a major focus of this year’s monitoring protocol.”

As a result, The Gravely Group announced another new training to our growing suite of offerings, Active Supervision: Creating + Enhancing a Culture of Safety.

Other articles from our blog include the federal government’s efforts to increase compensation for Head Start employees, where we quoted the Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families, who said, “We cannot continue to expect early educators to remain in these critical roles only to earn poverty wages.”

To respond, the Administration for Children and Families just recently announced a proposed rule to the Performance Standards, which would bring Head Start salaries in line with their public school counterparts over the next several years. I’m sure we’ll be talking a lot more about this in 2024.

And lastly, we explored Head Start’s enduring commitment to school readiness, and outlined some of the many resources available to help grantees make sure they’re doing all they can to support children and families on that front.

Melvin Gravely at the 2023 Region IV Head Start Association Annual Conference

This year, we also attended several conferences, often focusing on our new offerings in DEI. We attended all of Region IV’s 2023 conferences, including the Annual Conference in February, the Leadership Summit in June, and the Early Head Start Institute in September. We also attended Region II in Puerto Rico in November and enjoyed a bit of sunshine. Finally, we attended the 13th Annual Fatherhood Conference in April to present one of our signature trainings on fostering fatherhood in Head Start, as well as gave countless in-person and online trainings for agencies throughout the country.

And lastly, we continued to grow our social media presence. We’ve reached over 1,000 followers on our Facebook and 4,000 on our LinkedIn. Our highly popular LinkedIn group now has nearly 17,000 members.

In 2023, The Gravely Group rose to the challenge of helping programs around the country to advance and enhance their standards involving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging as well as Safety. Thanks to our newly developed trainings, The Gravely Group has been able to educate and inspire Head Start agencies to elevate their programming to new heights. Staff and training participants have shared with us throughout the year how our support is making a difference in the way they serve their communities and establish more effective standards in their operations.

As we prepare to step in 2024, our commitment continues to be YOU. This means that we are still providing informative trainings for your staff and we are still launching resources to build your own Head Start success. The Gravely Group continues to be empowered by the driving force that there are still families out there struggling to give their children the proper care they need to live healthy and thriving lives. We hope you will continue to walk this journey with us, because together making a difference takes all of us.

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