We begin today with a short update about local Head Start. (If you're looking for the update to the UVA pro-Palestine encampment, it's below!)

Some of you might remember, a little more than a month ago the only free Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Charlottesville and several surrounding counties closed, leaving hundreds of families suddenly without child care. Since then, the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees all Head Start programs, hired a national nonprofit to run our local centers. As of this morning, that group has managed to reopen about half of them.

That's the short-term picture. The long-term one is that Monticello Area Community Action Agency, MACAA — which ran and closed the Head Start programs — is working on a plan to take back the local centers. The trouble is, not everyone on its board of directors agrees that the organization is in the right shape to do that.

The entrance of a brick building, with double glass doors, has a sign next to it that reads, "MACAA."
Credit: Kori Price/Dexter Auction

After closing in March, Head Start center’s board disagrees on how to move forward

At a board meeting in April, MACAA's directors decided to apply for a grant to open a single new Head Start center somewhere in central Virginia next year. The new center would give the organization a chance to prove to itself, the community and the federal government that it is capable of running Head Start again. If it is successful, the agency would reapply to run all the centers in the region again.

But not every board member was on board. Phillip Love, director of finance, said he believes the agency won't be ready to run any Head Start program for at least three years.

At the April 25 board meeting, he said the agency should not move forward “unless we get the right staff in, and we change the culture, and we change the infrastructure.”

He's alluding there to the issues that led MACAA to shut its doors in the first place. To be honest, we're not entirely sure what those issues were. We know that the agency was having staffing problems. Since August, centers would frequently close for a day or so at a time because they didn't have enough people to run them.

Reporter Tamica Jean-Charles has made numerous attempts to speak with MACAA leaders about the issues they were dealing with. So far, they've been unwilling to comment beyond their original statement, which said that the grant they received from the federal government to run the program was insufficient.

In lieu of an explanation from MACAA leadership, Tamica has been speaking with a handful of previous MACAA staff and parents to try and get an idea of what went wrong. If you are or know someone with information about why MACAA closed, please reach out to us here!

On a grassy area, a line of dozens of police officers in riot gear holding shields face off against people dressed in civilian clothing.
On Saturday, UVA leaders called in a multi-agency police task force to clear a pro-Palestine encampment. Within days, dozens of faculty and student groups put out statements condemning the police action. Angilee Shah/Dexter Auction Credit: Angilee Shah/Dexter Auction

Fallout from the University of Virginia's decision to forcefully remove pro-Palestine protesters from campus Saturday continued throughout the week.

Within days, dozens of faculty and student groups put out statements condemning the police action. UVA President Jim Ryan responded by hosting a virtual town hall with other UVA leaders Tuesday to lay out the timeline of events, and explain their reasons for clearing protesters.

“There was a lot of information flowing in,” said Ian Baucom, the executive vice president and provost. “It was a very fluid situation. I also just want to acknowledge how aching this situation is. If you begin at the end, none of us wanted that end. As we walk through the pieces of it, we were just trying to make the wisest, best decisions we could. Fallibly, but the best decisions that we could.”

You can watch the full town hall here.

A screenshot of a Zoom meeting with five people that is being played as a YouTube video.

For some, the university's explanation was sufficient. For others, it was not. On Thursday, faculty who were at the protest held their own public, virtual event — which they called an “Honest Town Hall” — where they described the events on Saturday in a much different way.

Both Ryan and the faculty group agree on a few key points: namely that UVA Police Chief Longo gave protesters multiple warnings to remove tents they had pitched Friday and that protesters refused to comply. Among the things they disagree on is the level of threat the protesters presented, and the need for multiple police agencies in riot gear to forcibly remove them. Ryan also met in a private meeting with representatives to the faculty senate Thursday.

You can watch the faculty town hall at this link, using the passcode: PDK5$u16

A screenshot of a video being played on a website. The video shows police officers standing near people holding umbrellas in front of tents. Above the video is a University of Virginia logo and the title "Eyewitness Perspectives: An Honest Town Hall - Shared screen with speaker view."

There has been a lot of coverage of how the pro-Palestine protest was shut down. Here are a few reports that can help you understand how things are unfolding:

We have teamed up with independent student journalists at The Cavalier Daily to follow this issue as it develops. Stay tuned for more reporting.

Have a great weekend,
Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Dexter Auction's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at [email protected]! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a [email protected].