Owens Valley Career Development Center

Launching a New Tribal EHS Expansion Grant from the Ground Up:  How a Team of Federal, Tribal, and Public Programs Will Succeed

The Owens Valley Career Development Center (OVCDC) is a new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP)and Expansion grant and a consortium of four Central California Tribes (i.e., Bishop Paiute, Big Pine Paiute, Big Sandy Mono, and Cold Springs Mono) who came together to increase services across a wide geographic area of rural communities around the Eastern and Western Sierras in Central California. Although OVCDC has long focused on providing education and self-sufficiency services, the EHS-CCP Expansion grant enabled them to realize their agency vision to provide services to the youngest children and their families. Tom Zizzo, administrative analyst for OVCDC, stated that, "We are excited because this grant provides a foundation for how all our other programs can be tied together and how we can provide assistance to those who need it—starting from birth and all the way through adulthood.”

Going from the grand vision to the reality of implementation required a lot support from many places. First, as a completely new grantee to the Office of Head Start (OHS), OVCDC needed to quickly learn about all the requirements for the program, which were initially quite daunting. OVCDC instantly sought and received extensive training and technical assistance (T/TA) from a support team which included the OHS Region XI staff, and Willow Tree Early Education Team with Mr. Jerry Parr, as the implementation planner consultant and long-time EHS technical assistance provider. Alexander Yazza, executive director for OVCDC, was grateful for the support and knew that it would take time to get their program fully operational. The team worked hand-in-hand with the OVCDC staff and their tribal leadership over the first few months to get the program started.

One new requirement for OVCDC and their tribal consortium partners was the need to establish a Parent Policy Council that had the ability to provide feedback on the staff hiring process. This was a completely new process for OVCDC's Board of Trustees and their partners' Tribal Boards. To ensure its success, OVCDC recruited trusted members of the tribal community who were willing to think about the broader goals of the EHS-CCP program, and not just their own particular tribe's needs. All the members were enthusiastic and passionate mothers who brought that perspective to the first meeting. Jerry noted that, "In all my 30-plus years working with EHS, this was one of the best Policy Council meetings I have ever attended." The members brought in their own experiences as parents as part of their deliberations, which strengthened their relationships with each other and to the EHS Expansion program.

The Interim Parent Policy Council saw firsthand the direct impact of their work on agency policy. OVCDC human resources staff had become used to their standard hiring processes and rules. But, the EHS-CCP Expansion grant was more complicated and the Policy Council agreed that OVCDC needed more flexibility to streamline their hiring process. As a result of the Policy Council's recommendations, OVCDC was able to move forward with significant systems changes around their hiring policies for the program. Through this early success, Policy Council members immediately saw the significance of their contributions to the history of their tribes and their work to improve the lives of their children and families being served.

Classroom teacher teaching children about shapesOn Sept. 28, 2015, OVCDC started enrolling EHS children in their Big Pine center and soon after also opened up the EHS program in Bishop (see photo). Bonnie Amisone, the new EHS director, was grateful that "everybody just stepped up to the plate and did a lot of teamwork together to make it happen." She said the first day went really well and it was great to finally see the children in the center after all the initial planning.

Looking ahead, OVCDC already knows they will need to do more with professional development and finding the right staff who can work on getting the required credentials, but also dealing with the need for a livable wage to keep them. Tom says that they constantly have to keep reaching out to people, but it’s hard for people to apply in their area. He would love to see a way to bring the funding for the EHS program together with employment training dollars so that they can get individuals into school and then create opportunities for them to give back to the community. He continues to seek and explore other partnerships with other agencies in their service area.

Reflecting back on the first few months providing T/TA on their implementation, Jerry said that the OVCDC Consortium Board initially “was not 100 percent sure of what this [EHS-CCP Expansion] was,  but they were 1000 percent sure that it was a good thing for their community."  Jerry shared, that in order to be successful as a new EHS-CCP grantee, OVCDC “needs a certain amount of fearlessness and the entrepreneurial spirit," and based on his experience, he is sure they already have plenty of that to go around.

June 5, 2019
Last Reviewed: June 5, 2019