Lee County NAACP sets meeting to rebuke LIFT

CATEGORY: Lee County

AUTHOR: MOULDE

Lee County NAACP sets meeting to rebuke LIFT

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Officials of the Lee County NAACP have called a community meeting for today to unveil what they called “alarming facts” about operations of LIFT Inc., a community action agency that operates the area Head Start program for young children.

In a brief meeting with news reporters Wednesday, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People local officers cited what they called a “massive turnover in staff,” “flagrant violations of civil rights,” discrimination, and misuse of funds in the Head Start program.

The meeting was set for 7 p.m. today at New Providence Missionary Baptist Church Christian Life Center at Barnes and Green streets in Tupelo.

The Rev. Robert Jamison, education chairman for the local NAACP, and Viola Foster, president of the local chapter, leveled the bulk of their complaints at LIFT Executive Director Randy Collums. But they also claimed the LIFT Board of Directors balked when asked to investigate their complaints.

Jamison, former LIFT executive director, said black employees of LIFT have complained about “pressure” by Collums that led some to resign. Others claimed their jobs had been threatened, he said. Collums is white.

Jamison said the issue came to a head when a black Head Start teacher was demoted to bus driver based on “hearsay” provided by a co-worker.

“The executive director operates totally in an autocratic way,” Jamison claimed. “Nobody tells him what to do, nobody.”

Jamison and Foster focused their allegations on a May 1995 report by the Atlanta office of the federal Administration for Children and Families, which oversees Head Start programs. That report cited serious deficiencies in the LIFT program.

Those deficiencies still exist, Jamison contended.

“We want them to operate according to the law,” Foster said.

Collums declined comment on the NAACP allegations until he “sees the specifics.”

He did note he was barred from discussing personnel information. He added that he “hasn’t mistreated anybody” and that the agency has an internal appeals process to handle any employee grievances.

LIFT board Chairman Albert Gordon could not be reached for comment.

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