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MSU Extension Head Start Annual Report 2024

Filed Under: MSU Extension Head Start

From our Leadership

Mississippi State University Extension Head Start/Early Head Start’s 2023 - 2024 Annual Report is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff in serving the children and families in Harrison County.  We are also keenly aware that we cannot do the jobs that we do without the trust and support that we get from our local community – our partners, our Board and Policy Council and most of all our parents who place their most precious assets in our care.  We would like to thank you for your continued interest and investment of time and energy to our program.   We are committed and invested in providing the highest quality of service to the children and families served within our Harrison County communities.  Our goal is to serve as a model of excellence in early care and education throughout the nation.  A recent visit from the Head Start Bureau resulted in the recognition of our commitment to wellness for our staff and children and encouragement to share our innovative approach with Head Start programs across the country. 

As always, we are humbled by the support of our staff, our partners, our Board and our Policy Council.  We are proud to provide excellence in early childhood services and are committed to remaining the best and safest option for children and families in our service area.    

Although there is no way to report all the wonderful things from this program year, we hope this glimpse offers a look at the outcomes that will have a long-lasting positive impact on this part of the state. 

Yours in Service,

Dr. Louise E. Davis - Executive Director
Jamila B. Taylor - Director, Head Start and EHS

From Our Board

As we reflect on another year of service to the Harrison County area, I’m so pleased to have the honor to serve as the Board Chair for MSU Extension Head Start for another year.  The Board and staff have worked tirelessly to innovate and improve services for children and families while focusing on a holistic approach – education, family services, health, nutrition and mental health.  I am grateful for the staff’s commitment and thank the community and stakeholders for support and resources that have contributed to another successful year.  It is again a pleasure to share with you the results of our dedicated team.  This report is an example of how we have had a positive impact on hundreds of children and families.    

We believe every child, regardless of their circumstances at birth has the ability to reach their full potential.  We are in this together and it is our privilege to continue to bring Head Start services to you.   As we begin another year of working with young children and their families, we are committed to providing high quality services to our children. 

Anissa Pace, Board Chair

Board of Directors

Policy Council

Anissa Pace - Board Chair

Johnquila Bullock - Chair

Dr. Ashten Yost - Early Childhood

Shante Richardson - Vice Chair

Taylor Brinkley - Attorney

Lauren TenEych - Secretary

Josh Ervin - Fiscal

Tomiko Walker - Treasurer

Hunter Andrews




About Us

The MSU Extension Head Start and Early Head Start program, offered in Harrison County, is designed to help children and their parents make an easier transition from early childhood program to kindergarten. The program combines local partnerships with research-based education methods to serve children at this most critical stage of life.

Our Head Start centers proudly serve the communities of Gilbert Mason, East Biloxi, and Gaston Point, with Linda Lyons being our Early Head Start center. Our commitment to providing quality early-childhood education extends through our      partnerships with local school districts, including Gulfport School District and Biloxi Public School District. In collaboration with Moore Community House and Shine Early Learning, we can offer comprehensive support and services. Moore Community House houses our Early Head Start program, including the Linda Lyons Center, while Shine Early Learning plays a vital role in providing valuable program support.  While serving the children of Harrison County, MSU Extension will be working to build a successful model that can be shared and replicated statewide.

From February 13-17, 2023, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) conducted an intensive Focus Area Two (FA2) monitoring review, focusing on interviews as well as policy and procedure reviews.  Reviewers visited centers and classrooms to monitor and complete safety checks as well as file audits for both children and personnel.  On March 27, 2023, we received a very positive report that included only one noted area of improvement regarding lack of documentation for lead free paint for school-based partnerships.  The review identified several areas of strength, including our facilities and the learning taking place in each center, family engagement supports, monitoring for health and safety, wellness program, ERSEA and the documentation provided to support our efforts across service areas, HR and fiscal systems and our partnership programs.  The lead reviewer commended our progress in just four years. Through our efforts we will change the narrative for our most vulnerable children and families in Mississippi.

State of the State

In overall child well-being, Mississippi ranks only behind New Mexico.  The table below, (taken from Mississippi Kids Count Factbook 2024), shows Mississippi is the last ranked state in both Health and Family and Community metrics, 47th in Economic Well-Being, and 32th in Education – up from last year’s rank of 39th, however for young children (ages 3 and 4) not in school, the state again fared worse than the previous year with an estimated additional 2,000 children not in an educational setting.  While the number of children in poverty dipped by an estimated 2,000 children, the number of children living in households with high housing costs increased by an estimated 5,000 children.  A child’s chances of thriving depend not only on individual, family, and community characteristics but also on the state in which she or he is born and raised. States vary in wealth and other resources. Policy choices and investments also influence children’s chances for success.







Economic Wellbeing


Children in Poverty





Children whose parents lack secure employment





Children living in households with a high housing cost burden





Teens not in school and not working







Young children (ages 3 and 4) not in school





Fourth graders not proficient in reading





Eighth graders not proficient in math





High school students not graduating on time







Babies with low birth rate





Children without health insurance





Child and teen deaths per 100,000





Teens who are overweight or obese





Family & Community


Children in single-parent families





Children in families where the head of the household lacks a high school diploma





Children living in high poverty areas





Teen births per 1,000





2024 Mississippi Kids Count Factbook


Financial Overview

Total 2022-2023

Federal, state, and local funding



Head Start

Early Head Start













Total Funding




MSU Extension Head Start has administrative and system-wide fiscal capacity and financial resources to implement, manage, report on, and achieve the goals and objectives of Head Start and Early Head Start grant. At all stages of implementation and management, the MSU team follows policies and procedures relating  to maintaining fiduciary and financial responsibility for all grant activities; keeping  accurate payroll and accounting data, records, and archiving of supporting documentation for all charges; preparing and submitting expenditure reports; certifying expenses are true and correct; classifying and reporting accounting transactions properly; and maintaining procurement records.  

We have intensive monitoring guidelines and practices to ensure that all federal money passed through to partners is used appropriately, and that the funds spent on this program are reasonable, allowable, and allocable to Head Start.  The Board and Policy Council have a robust role in setting program priorities through their input and review of budgets and expenditures as standing agenda items at regular meetings.

MSU Extension Head Start is audited as a part of the University system and has maintained unqualified opinions of Extension services throughout our tenure a Head Start grantee.  The University administers more than $60 million annually in total funding across all programs with all the finance, grant accounting and compliance measures in place for ensuring the maintenance of fiduciary and financial responsibility for all activities. Reviews of other MSU early childhood programs have consistently reflected the strength of our financial accountability systems.

2022-2023 Expenditures

This chart shows 2022-2023 Expenditures: Contractual $3,019,697, Travel $58,359, Indirect $326,709, Personnel $1,839,730, Fringe $729,821, Supplies $98,713, Other $29,531


2022-2023 Head Start Budget

2022-2023 Head Start Budget


Head Start

Early Head Start






























Total Budget







We are extremely fortunate to have a high number of dedicated staff who are well trained and supported to work with our children and families.  Over the past several years, we are seeing a shift in the education levels of our staff with the majority of Head Start teachers holding an associate degree (60%).  There has been a drastic drop (40%) over the past year in the number of staff with a bachelor’s degree with current percentages at 33%.  For Early Head Start, the percentages are evenly proportioned with a third of teaching staff holding an associate degree, another third with a CDA and the remainder without current credentials, but in classes leading to a degree or credential in early childhood education.  Approximately half have an associate degree or higher, with the remainder holding a CDA in infant/toddler education. 

Even with our high-quality staff, we are facing the same challenges as other Head Start programs throughout the nation in finding and retaining qualified staff to work in classrooms.  Early childhood, with traditionally low pay, is a field that is struggling to attract candidates and even when we hire staff, the burnout rate is incredibly high.  Our profession is seeing record numbers of staff across the nation voluntarily leaving their jobs; we are no different.  In the past year, we were unable to open several classrooms due to the inability to recruit, hire and retain staff to safely operate classrooms.  As such, we were able to serve approximately ½ of our funded enrollment.  In addition to the difficulty in finding qualified staff, we also face challenges in keeping staff.  In the past year, we had 6 Early Head Start staff leave, all of whom were teachers and an astounding 27 Head Start staff out of 37 total staff (73%).  Out of those 27 staff, 17 (63%) were education staff.   For the 33 staff who left, only 26 were replaced during the school year, leading to a negative impact on continuity of care for our children served in those classrooms.  In exit surveys of staff leaving the organization, we are finding a myriad of reasons for the vacancies.  The majority (53%) left for work in similar fields, such as local school systems at a higher rate of pay.

This chart shows percentage of Early head start teachers with a degree: 34% Associates Degree, 33% CDA, 33% No DegreeThis charts shows percentage of Head Start Teachers who hold a degree: 7% Masters Degree, 33% Bachelors Degree, 60% Associates DegreeThis chart shows percentage of Head Start Teacher Assistants with a degree: 60% No Degree, 40% CDA


Snapshot of Participants Served

MSU is funded to serve 488 Head Start and 64 Early Head Start for a total of 552 children in three Head Start centers that MSU Extension has oversight of:  East Biloxi Head Start, Gilbert Mason Head Start, and Gaston Point This chart shows a snapshot of participants served: 44% at or below 100% poverty level, 41% Public Assistance, 4% at 100-130% of poverty, 6% at over 130% poverty, 5% homeless, 0% Foster CareHead Start. In addition, we have a partnership with one of the local school districts, Gulfport School District, where we have 5 pre-K classrooms; 1 classroom each that are housed at 5 different elementary schools. East Biloxi Head Start is currently housed at Nichols Elementary in Biloxi, MS with the region serving families in the Biloxi Public School District. Gilbert Mason is located in D’Iberville within the Harrison County School District. Gaston Point Head Start is located in Gulfport, and along with the partnership program, serves families in the Gulfport School District.

Over the course of the 2022-2023 school year, our program served a total of 220 children in Head Start as well as 31 children in Early Head Start. Our Early Head Start program is in partnership with Moore Community House and located at our Linda Lyons Early Head Start in Gulfport, MS.  In 2022-2023, 44% of our children were income eligible – living at 100% of the federal poverty level, which for a family of 4 is $27,750 per year.  Another 41% of our children qualified through categorical eligibility including foster care, public assistance or homeless (5%).    We estimate there are 2,875 income-eligible Early Head Start infants and toddlers and 1,812 income eligible Head Start children in Harrison County. At full capacity, we would serve 2% of the eligible Early Head Start population and 27% of the Head Start population in our service area.   

Early Head Start and Head Start have staggered starts, accounting for a month without enrollment in each.   The critical staffing shortage of qualified early childhood professionals sweeping the nation has had a tremendous impact on us locally.  As a result of that, and lingering effects of COVID, we had capacity of approximately half of our funded enrollment.  Our attendance reports are based on the number of open classrooms. 


2022-2023 Average Attendance

This chart shows Head Start and Early Head Start Attendance for 2022 through 2023

Historical Average Daily Attendance per Program Year

This chart shows Historical Average Daily Attendance per Program Year from 2020 through 2023


The following chart shows the number of children/families were served by center during the 22-23 program year, the total numbers/percentages of children with physical and dental exams. 


Children Served

Families    Served

Physical Exams


Dental Exams


East Biloxi Elementary







Gaston Point







Dr. Gilbert Mason







Gulfport Partnership







Total Head Start







Linda Lyons (EHS)








We serve diverse children and families and are continuing to see increases in our Hispanic/Latinx population.  Twenty-nine of our children are Dual Language Learners, with most of those children being proficient in Spanish (90%), but also a few families whose primary languages are Middle Eastern or East Asian.   We strive to ensure that we can communicate with children and families in their home language by providing staff and partners who have the ability to interpret and translate important information. 

Race/Ethnicity of Participants

This images shows: Race/Ethnicity of Participants, 69% Black, 2% Asian, 9% White, 8% Other/Hispanic, 1% Black/Hispanic, 4% White/Hispanic, 7% Biracial

Focus on Wellness

The Executive Team observed the positive response of our wellness efforts and decided to host a staff appreciation event centered around wellness.  Held at Centennial Plaza, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the event featured recognition, music, fellowship, prices, games, delicious food and more.  It aimed not only to express gratitude to the staff, but also to showcase MSU’s approach to staff wellbeing to community partners and collaborators. 

In the absence of income incentives or pay raises, the Executive Team further highlighted workplace wellness by organizing a wellness retreat at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. This retreat was meticulously planned to provide staff with opportunities for relaxation, rejuvenation and engaging in wellness activities.  One of the most impactful moments of the retreat was a mindfulness event hosted by MSU’s Health and Nutritionist and Wellness Coordinator.  Staff members were reminded of the importance of self-care and left feeling emotionally uplifted and motivated. Building upon these efforts, MSU has furthered its commitment to staff wellness by creating quarterly Wellness Newsletters.  

Since its inception, MSU Head Start has remained committed to prioritizing staff well-being, recognizing it as essential for the program’s success.  The aim is to serve as a model for other Head Start programs within the region and beyond, ensuring that staff members feel supported and valued.  As one staff member aptly put it, “I never knew what it meant to indulge in self-care, but after this, I know that I not only need it, but I deserve it.” This sentiment reflects MSU’s dedication to our community and caring for the things that truly matter.

Parent, Family and Community Engagement

Our relationships with parents begins as soon as we take an application for a child, when we discuss parent’s hopes and dreams for their child.  We set the stage for the importance of the parent’s involvement in their child’s educational journey.  When the child is accepted into the program, we hold a parent orientation where we discuss what parents can expect from us and how they can be an essential part of the program.  Because of our focus on child health, we also talk to the family about partnerships we have with community health experts, such as The Vision Center, South Mississippi Smiles, and Coastal Family Health Clinic who provide on-site services for children as necessary. 

Our focus for family services centers around a quote from the Child Development Group of Mississippi: "Head Start was not a Kindergarten, but a Communigarten." We directed our efforts towards providing tools and resources that we believed our families and children would benefit from in our "communigarten." These areas included family engagement activities promoting rich environments, language and literacy, connecting families with community resources, and offering parenting classes.

Some of the activities we organized included starting the year with parents participating in a Parent Cafe where we engaged in a fun activity of potting plants to symbolize our "Communigarten" theme and to plant the seeds that families need to grow successfully. We also hosted a fall festival where we invited community partners to set up vendor tables to share resources with staff and families.

Among the community partners present were Feeding the Gulf Coast, our partners in the Backpack program, providing nutritious and easy-to-prepare food for hungry children over the weekend. Additionally, we invited Happy Healthy to conduct a food demonstration for our families and how to read food labels. South Mississippi Smiles and Canopy Children's Solutions were also in attendance, providing dental services and other family support to our families in the program.

This chart shows Family Services Received: Emergency Crisis Intervention 19, Housing Assistance 10, Mental Health 103, Substance Abuse Prevention 2, Adult Education/Job Training, 204, Parenting Curriculum 189, Child Assessment 224, Health Education 110, Postpartum Care Education 27

Other significant activities from last year were the launch of our Family Learning Parties as part of our Parent Curriculum, Shine On, Families. The theme was "Blast off into a Bright Future," where families joined their children, teachers, and family advocates to model high-quality adult-child interactions used in classrooms. These parties focused on family life practices such as family routines, positive discipline, expressive language, and literacy, aiming to get families excited, motivated, and engaged in their child's learning journey. Lastly, the University of Southern Mississippi offered parenting classes focusing on child development stages, setting boundaries for children, positive discipline, and improving communication with children.

Other Family Metrics:

  • One or more parent employed – 169.
  • Active military parent – 7
  • Grandparents raising grandchildren – 5.
  • One or more parent in school – 17


Preparing our Children for Kindergarten

Everything we do with the children enrolled in the MSU Extension Head Start program is to help them become successful in the school setting – from classroom practices and experiences to training for parents.  Our ultimate goal is to leverage community partnerships and research-based methods to establish a strong program that serves children at their   youngest and most vulnerable stage in life, so they experience optimal outcomes. Throughout the year, we utilize hands-on opportunities to expand children’s learning experiences.  Teaching staff use multiple modalities to teach children in a variety of settings – indoor, outdoor, mealtime and transitions.  Throughout the year, teachers were able to individualize needs as each child required and build upon skills and abilities as children grew and learned. 

We strive to create a seamless experience at each transition (from home to Early Head Start to Head Start to the local school system) so the child has a good experience and can be comfortable in the new educational setting.  Our Head Start program brings high-quality, early childhood educational experiences in a fun atmosphere, laying a strong foundation for success. Each classroom is equipped with materials and supplies geared toward enhancing children’s school readiness.  We take a holistic approach in working with children and families, taking care to ensure they are physically and mentally healthy, have well balanced diets and opportunities for home learning environments that are extensions of the classroom.  For children enrolled in our school district partnerships, assessment and subsequent individualization is based on information from Renaissance to determine the child’s educational journey.   

At the beginning of the year, we assess each child in educational domains that are developmentally appropriate for their age group – Social Emotional, Physical, Language, Cognitive, Literacy and Mathematics.  The following charts demonstrate the growth of our children from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.  There is tremendous growth in all areas as the percentages flip from emerging skills at the beginning of the year to accomplished at the end of the year.  We recognize that there is still much room to improve in the areas of mathematics and literacy and plan educational professional development to assist teachers in practices proven to improve child outcomes in those specific areas.  To support and guide the approach to education, we have a School Readiness Committee that consists of staff, parents and community leaders who assist in analyzing outcomes and providing input on educational activities throughout the year.   Throughout the year, staff build a transition portfolio to present to parents with samples of the child’s growth.  Periodically throughout the year, the staff will meet with parents to review outcomes and discuss areas of strength as well as areas where learning can be targeted. 

As children approach Kindergarten entry, we provide parents with information on the receiving schools, registration information, and times they can visit.  They also receive information regarding kindergarten camp where children can meet their prospective teachers and tour the school – including the cafeteria, library, classroom and playground.  At the end of the school year, parents receive a “report card” with materials to support a child’s growth over the summer months.   

This chart shows Baseline Child Outcomes

This chart shows End of Year Child Outcomes

Health Services

This chart shows Health Information at the End of the Program Year: Up to Date Health 189, Health Insurance 244, Immunizations 240, Medical Home 247

Our holistic approach to educating children is ensuring that they do not have physical constraints to learning.  As a part of every school year, children receive comprehensive services attuned to the health and well-being of children enrolled in our program – including physical and dental examinations, developmental screenings, immunizations and access to affordable health, dental and vision care.  Our Advocates work with families to ensure children receive necessary screenings, assessment, and treatment as necessary.  In addition, through collaboration with community partners, including pediatricians, health departments, mental health providers and local education associations, we can provide health and disability services to children who experience chronic conditions or special accommodations as noted in an individual education plan.

Dental Services

Children Receiving Dental Treatment 14
Children Needing Dental Treatment 33
Children Receiving Dental Exam 192
Children Receiving Preventative Dental Treatment 211


Disability and Health Conditions

Autism 3
Asthma 6
Severe Allergies 3
Vision Problems 4
Underweight 12
Overweight 33
Obese 38
Speech/Language 11
Developemental 12



It would be impossible to serve our communities without dedicated collaborations with our partners.  We are indebted to them for assisting us in meeting our vision for a holistic approach to education to children and families.  We are truly grateful to the following organizations:

  • Moore Community House
  • Shine Early Learning
  • Gulfport Public Schools
  • Harrison County Schools
  • Oasis Mental Wellness
  • Biloxi Public Schools
  • Premier Professional Counseling
  • MS Gulf Coast Community College
  • Fordham University
  • The Vision Center
  • Feeding American – Gulf Coast
  • University of Southern Mississippi
  • Southern MS Planning & Development
  • South Mississippi Smiles
  • Coastal Family Health

Select Your County Office

Your Extension Experts

Portrait of Dr. Louise E. Davis
Extension Professor
Portrait of Ms. Jamila B. Taylor
Director, Head Start & EHS Prg