The Los Angeles County Office of Education announced late Friday that it would appoint a manager to operate the Frederick Douglass Child Development Center in Los Angeles as a result of "ongoing management and organizational problems" at the Head Start agency.
Those problems include a failure to define the responsibilities of the board of directors and the agency's executive staff, said Gilberto Anzaldua, assistant superintendent for educational services.
Feuding between the center's board members and staff has interfered with the ability of Head Start to do its job serving 1,200 disadvantaged children at 33 locations in Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley, officials said.
A county employee or consultant will be selected to manage the program until a permanent director is found, said Janice Crawford, Office of Education spokeswoman.
Problems at the center became public this week when its executive director, Ted Anderson, resigned and said the agency may have misappropriated a portion of more than $20,000 donated by the city of Lancaster. Other agency officials said the money can be accounted for.
Anderson said an agency official told him the money was being used to pay directors to attend meetings, despite the fact that board membership is voluntary.
The city of Lancaster is investigating how its funds were spent. Perella Crist, the grandmother of a Head Start child, said classes in the Antelope Valley were routinely short of food and material. She said on one occasion the program sent so few hot dogs for lunch that those that arrived had to be cut in half to feed all the children.
The agency's fiscal officer, Ludovico Ramillano, has said that all the Lancaster funds can be accounted for. He admitted that some Lancaster money had been mistakenly deposited in a fund used by the board of directors but said it had later been replaced.
Crawford said the county office is unaware of any fiscal improprieties. She said the agency has been audited regularly and has passed every time. But she also said that since the county Office of Education is responsible only for making sure federal money is spent properly, the auditors would not have analyzed expenditures from the Lancaster fund.
"We neither audit nor have control over local revenue sources," she said.