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History of HEAD START of Greater Dallas, Inc.

  • 1965: “In January 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in his State of the Union address. The government was influenced by new research on the effects of poverty, as well as its impact on education. This research indicated an obligation to help disadvantaged groups, compensating for inequality in social or economic conditions. The Head Start program began as an eight-week demonstration project designed to help break the cycle of poverty. It provided preschool children from low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and educational needs.” -Office of Head Start
  • 1982: Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as Head Start Awareness Month on October 22, 1982.
  • 1988: The Head Start program realigned and came under the interim sponsorship of the Community Council of Greater Dallas for six months in 1988. The program was then incorporated on August 31, 1988, as an independent nonprofit organization known as Dallas County Family Services, Inc. founded by Wanda Meshack Smith, Staff, and Policy Council.
  • 1992: The board of directors decided to change the agency’s name to Head Start of Greater Dallas to better reflect the agency’s single purpose of providing Head Start services to the local community.
  • 1997: As Chief Executive Officer, Wanda Meshack Smith was responsible for the administration of a $35 million budget which included supervision of 700+ employees and the operation of 45 full-day early childhood development centers in Dallas County with an enrollment capacity of over 4,400 children. Prior to becoming Chief Executive Officer, Smith served as the Executive Director of Head Start of Greater Dallas from 1989 to 1996. During her tenure as Executive Director, she was responsible for supervising senior management and overseeing a budget that grew from $5 million to $17 million. Wanda Meshack Smith was active in civic and social circles in the Dallas area, Smith is a member of National Head Start Association, Texas Head Start Association, National Association for the Education of Young Children, Dallas Association for the Education of Young Children and is a charter member of Concord Missionary Baptist Church. She serves on the board of directors of Jubilee Park & Community Center. She also serves on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Child-Care Licensing, the Committee on Foster Placement for Children of Color, the State Task Force on Disproportionality, the Dallas District Disproportionality Advisory Committee, and Dallas Steering Committee. Smith previously served on the Texas Head Start Association board of directors (1986 to 2012), The Science Place board of directors (2000 to 2002), and was appointed by Councilwoman Dr. Maxine Thornton-Reese as a commissioner on the Dallas Planning and Zoning Commission (2002 to 2003). Wanda Smith’s awards began in 1972 with the South Dallas Professional Women’s Club Outstanding Achievement in Social Services Award. Under Smith’s leadership, HEAD START of Greater Dallas has come to be regarded as one of the premier Head Start programs in the country.
  • 2003: Gannon Head Start Center, now named after Wanda Meshack Smith, (Wanda Meshack Smith Early Head Start & Head Start) was built in 2003 and opened its doors to serve children and families on January 20, 2004. Gannon served 220 pre-school-age children from low-income backgrounds whose families met the federal income guidelines. There were 12 classrooms with 6 rooms participating in the Math and Science Project, a grant-funded program adopted by Head Start of Greater Dallas to teach preschoolers pre-math and pre-science to inspire their love of learning in these subjects at an early age. The center has been accredited twice by the N.A.E.Y.C. (National Association for the Education of Young Children) in April 2006 and June 2011.
  • 2005: In March (1995) Head Start of Greater Dallas was recognized as a Program of Excellence by the National Head Start Association. This designation was renewed in 2008. For her extensive work in early childhood education, Smith has received numerous awards, including being named to the 2003 Head Start Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed on only 30 individuals throughout the United States. Her photo is on permanent display in the National Head Start Association headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. In 1980, Wanda Smith received the Margaret H. Cone Award from the Dallas Association for the Education of Young Children. Other awards include the Community Council of Greater Dallas 1995 Award for Excellence in Human Service Programming for the Margaret H. Cone Head Start Center, the 2001 Trailblazer Award from the South Dallas Club of The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, AMERIGROUP Foundation 2002 Healthy Hero Award, and one of Dallas Business Journal’s Top 25 Women to Watch in 2010. Wanda Meshack Smith, who served as Chief Executive Officer of Head Start of Greater Dallas, Inc. since 1997 retired on Aug. 31, 2012.
  • 2012: Kenneth R. Gilbert becomes Chief Executive Officer of Head Start of Greater Dallas, Inc. Mr. Gilbert contributed to the growth and stability of HSGD serving as Chief Operations Officer and Chief Financial Officer during his 24-year tenure. Mr. Gilbert holds memberships in the National Head Start Association, The Institute of Management Accountants, and The National Association for the Education of Young Children and is a past President and current Treasurer of the Texas Head Start Association. Mr. Gilbert is also the current Treasurer of the Region VI Head Start Association. Mr. Gilbert is active in the community at the local and state level including current membership on the Head Start State Collaboration Office Advisory Board as well as past service on the state Child Care Management System Community Advisory Board and the Texas Early Childhood Education Council (TECEC) Advisory Committee. Mr. Gilbert is a 2004 Leadership Dallas alumnus and a 1991 alumnus of the prestigious Head Start Johnson and Johnson Management Fellows Program at UCLA. Mr. Gilbert holds a B.A. in Accounting from Bishop College and an MBA from Amberton University. Mr. Kenneth R. Gilbert served as Chief Executive Officer of Head Start of Greater Dallas, Inc. from 2012 to 2019.
  • 2020: Kathryn L. McCartney becomes Chief Executive Officer of Head Start of Greater Dallas, Inc. Ms. McCartney has served as an adjutant facility for Dallas County Community College District for several campuses, Eastfield, Mountain View, and Cedar Valley in the Child Development Department. She is a graduate of the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA as a Head Start-Johnson and Johnson Management Fellows Program. She just recently served in the Region VI Director/Mentor Program, mentoring new Head Start Directors. She has held several positions since joining the Head Start of Greater Dallas program in 1995, from the Transition Director, Education Services Director to the Head Start Director / Chief Operations Officer. She has worked closely with all content areas including the Early Head Start Program. Ms. McCartney also works with several school districts in the Dallas Motorplex that partner with Head Start of Greater Dallas. She is very active in the community; has maintained positions on several boards serving children and families in the Early Care Community. She currently serves on the Texas Winds Musical Outreach Board of Directors, the Jubilee Park Board of Directors, and the Eastfield Child Development Advisory Council.
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