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Mel Gravely

The Relationship between a Head Start Governing Body and Policy Council

board-trainingThe Head Start Act provides that Head Start agencies must “establish and maintain a formal structure for program governance, for the oversight of quality services for Head Start children and families and for making decisions related to program design and implementation.”

This means the formation of both a Governing Body and a Policy Council.

Governing Body

According to the Head Start Act, the Governing Body of a agency has “legal and fiscal responsibility for administering and overseeing [Head Start] programs… including the safeguarding of Federal Funds.”

For many programs, like as is the case with most Community Action Agencies, the structure of a Governing Body is already in place since the organization is required to have a Board of Directors. Therefore, the Head Start Governing Body will be the same members as the organization’s Board. The Board will then administrate the other programs of the agency, in addition to Head Start.

One additional requirement of Head Start, is that the Governing Body must include at least one representative from each the financial, legal, and early childhood education professions.  A diverse group of professions on a Board is just good practice in general.

For more information on Governing Body/Board of Directors, see our blogs:

Policy Council

Policy Councils are elected representatives of the program, and must consist of a minimum of 51% of parents/primary caregivers of enrolled children, and at least one community representative. The Head Start Act defines the role of Policy Council as providing the “direction of the Head Start program, including program design and operation, and long- and short-term planning goals and objectives, taking into account the annual community wide strategic planning and needs assessment and self-assessment.”

(See our blog, The Best Ways to Grow Parent Participation in your Head Start Program)

The Policy Council must approve and submit to plans for the program to the Governing Body for approval. If a situation arises in which a Policy Council proposal conflicts with the Governing Body’s legal and fiscal responsibility, the Office of Head Start states that it “believes it is consistent with the requirements of the Act for the governing body to respond by raising its fiscal or legal concerns with the policy council. After learning the governing body’s concerns, the policy council would have to decide whether to revise the decision and resubmit it to the governing body. If differences about the policy council decision cannot be resolved, then the grantee would implement the Head Start agency’s impasse procedures…”

Download the Head Start Program Governance Reference Book

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  1. Lena says:

    Can a governing board member also serve on policy council?

  2. Janice says:

    I have aspires to be a part of the Governace body for about two years I don’t know who to talk with or what the procedure is to qualify, how can I get that information.

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