Hed: LIFT grievances aired at community meeting
By Monique Harrison
Lee County NAACP officials plan to visit regional Head Start officials in Atlanta in an effort to rectify what they see as injustices within the operation of LIFT Inc., a community-action agency charged with operating the area Head Start program.
“We’re going to pay a visit to the people in Atlanta,” the Rev. Robert Jamison, education chairman for the local NAACP and former LIFT executive director, told about 45 area residents attending a Thursday evening meeting at New Providence Missionary Baptist Church. “We’re going to get this situation taken care of. You can’t tell us there is nothing going on at LIFT because there is.”
Jamison and other NAACP members say LIFT administrators are responsible for a large turnover in staff at the federally funded Head Start, which is designed to prepare at-risk preschoolers for kindergarten.
Several former LIFT employees came forward at the meeting, saying they had been fired or demoted without sufficient cause.
In some cases, the fired or demoted employees said they felt their treatment had been racially motivated.
LIFT’s former Head Start director, Martha Black, came to air complaints about her treatment.
Black, who has been with the program since it was launched 30 years ago, said she resigned earlier this school year because she felt LIFT was not properly overseeing the program.
She said she had no complaints about the job performances of the employees who had been fired or demoted.
NAACP officials also say they are concerned that program funds might be misappropriated.
One former worker said changes had been made to LIFT budgets and supply request forms.
LIFT Executive Director Randy Collums said the NAACP had taken up their complaints with the board, but that he had not discussed those complaints in significant detail.
“All I know is what I’m reading in the newspaper,” he said. “I assume at some point they will at least send me some written information.”
At least two former employees are currently in a personnel appeals process. Collums said he can’t comment on pending personnel matters.
LIFT board Chairman Albert Gordon could not be reached for comment.