Chicago schools hire H&K for Head Start expansion

CHICAGO: The Chicago Public School system has hired Hill & Knowlton to work on its Head Start early childhood education program, with a fee in the $300,000 range.

CHICAGO: The Chicago Public School system has hired Hill & Knowlton to work on its Head Start early childhood education program, with a fee in the $300,000 range.

The school system, which operates separately from city government, hopes to expand its Head Start program from 2,700 students in 2001 to 3,700 by 2003. It has been working with the city's department of human services to renovate 50 classrooms for the expanded program. The school system annually awards grants to a variety of social service agencies and programs that in turn run Head Start efforts in various locations.

The system receives roughly $18 million a year from Washington in Head Start funding.

Since the 1960s, Head Start has aimed to help three- and four-year-old children from low-income families in the areas of education, health, nutrition, social services, disabilities services, and parent involvement.

Children enrolled in the program get medical and dental exams, along with a range of other services.

Neither the school system nor H&K would comment on what the agency will be doing under its new contract. But with the system committed to expanding enrollment, H&K will likely be involved in efforts to reach more low-income families with information about the program and how to get involved. It could also work with various partner agencies involved in Head Start.

For several years, the Chicago schools have been trying to upgrade their image by fixing crumbling facilities, instituting programs to cut the citywide dropout rate, and improving student test scores.

The win for H&K comes in a year when its Chicago revenues are holding steady with those in 2001. "I think 'steady' is probably the right term for this year, said Gene Reineke, who runs the Chicago office, and is COO of H&K USA. Even with the economy in the doldrums, "government will still need to practice communications outreach, he said.

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