Leader of agency that oversees child care resigns

The Pasco Hernando Early Learning Coalition board will discuss its next move.

Published May 11, 2007

The executive director of an agency that oversees child care programs for Pasco and Hernando counties has resigned amid complaints of poor management practices, prompting one board member to renew his call for each county to go its own way.

Jo-Ann K. Fuller stepped down Wednesday afternoon, said Lisa Hammond, chairwoman of the Pasco Hernando Early Learning Coalition. A letter Fuller submitted offered no explanation, and she could not be reached for comment.

A special board meeting has been called for 9 a.m. today at the coalition's office on County Line Road to discuss what steps to take next.

Fuller went on leave May 2 while Hammond interviewed staffers about "labor concerns" that had arisen, according to a memo sent to board members. Hammond said Thursday the complaints centered on management practices, including setting short deadlines for projects and problems in delegating duties. She also did not provide enough oversight to Childhood Development Services, the agency that has the contract to oversee subsidized child care for the working poor, Hammond said.

"There was a lot of chaos and uncertainty," she said. "Having been in management myself, I take these issues seriously."

Fuller, who once headed the Hernando coalition and served as deputy director of the merged group, took over the larger agency in 2006 after her predecessor resigned, saying he feared for his job.

A recent evaluation of Fuller showed she scored an overall 3.3 points on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest. Categories she scored lowest in were budget matters and public relations.

She scored highest in working with state agencies, hiring qualified staff, overseeing contracts and monitoring providers.

"She was in a good place in the Hernando Coalition - a much smaller budget, an informed and active board, no voluntary pre-kindergarten, a familiar territory and a record of success. She is in over her head," wrote board member Dave Marshall, a longtime critic of the agency's operations.

Marshall blasted Fuller for being at the helm when the board denied the Pasco County School District request for $228, 000 to pay for social and medical assistance for poor families with preschool age children. But the agency failed to spend that money and doled it out in the form of minigrants.

"This dumping was the ultimate insult to the many people in Pasco County who worked for years to establish a program to give needy children an extra chance, " Marshall wrote in his evaluation. He said Thursday that the coalitions should split, adding that Pasco children were being underserved and apologizing for any role he played in supporting the merger.

Fuller did receive praise for providing leadership in early childhood care education and for developing continuous quality improvement.

"Jo-Ann's wealth of experience with children's services is a strong attribute. She understands the needs of children and providers and works tirelessly to improve service delivery, " Hammond wrote.

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1- 800-333-7505, ext. 4604.

Fast Facts:


A fractured agency

Here is a summary of the problems plaguing the Pasco Hernando Early Learning Coalition.

June 2005: After three votes, coalition rejects funding of pre-K program for needy kids sponsored by the Pasco County school district.

Pasco School Board questions whether coalition merger is in Pasco's best interest, closes down the pre-K program and dissociates itself from the coalition.

Office of Early Learning launches review of coalition.

July 2005: Executive director Jim Garrett sells his home and moves his family out of state. He later resigns, saying he fears for his job.

August 2005: State audit determines coalition may have to pay back $695, 854. Problems later are resolved.

June 2006: Coalition fails to spend money denied to the Pasco school district, gives it out to agencies as mini-grants.

Board member and Pasco County Health Department director Dr. Marc Yacht criticizes coalition's management.

October 2006: Board approves a $25-million budget after the fiscal year begins; coalition is told later by state official that it is "in jeopardy."