Ann Pagliaro, Executive Director and founder of Head Start of Eastern Orange County, will be retiring after 39 years of service to the organization.
For Pagliaro, the decision to retire was difficult for her. Yet, she is confident in her staff to continue the work they do in the greater Newburgh community.
“As a founder of the organization, my heart is in the place. I really value the ability to make an impact on young children and their families,” Pagliaro said in an interview. “I’m very proud to say that we have an extraordinarily talented staff that are well positioned to continue developing the program in the future.”
Among her staff is Janett Rodriguz, a New York State certified preschool teacher, who has been appointed as Pagliaro’s successor once her tenure is completed. Rodriguez has worked for Head Start for several years now.
Head Start of Orange County currently has a 42 member staff which includes professional certified teachers, professional assistant teachers and health staff. The organization, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, served 227 children annually.
While she may be retired, Pagliaro will operate as a volunteer health consultant for Head Start. In her retirement, Pagliaro is looking forward to getting back to painting, reading for her enjoyment and spending time with her family and friends. Pagliaro currently still lives in the area and her last day at Head Start will be July 30.
Pagliaro was born in St. Lukes Hospital in Newburgh, growing up in Rock Tavern, which is a part of the town of New Windsor. She attended Mount Saint Mary College, graduating with a degree in nursing. She then went on to work in several hospitals as a registered nurse for about a decade. She eventually married and started a family.
Joining Head Start as their health coordinator, she made the decision to stay with the program and continue on this career path.
The Head Start program, founded by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, is a federally funded early childhood program. The purpose of this program is to serve low income families, preparing young children in early education. In the Newburgh community, the Head Start program first worked closely with the Newburgh school districts starting in 1967. The program was then run and maintained by a local community organization but as time went on, the organization ran into financial difficulties that led to the Head Start grant not being available.
It was in the year 2000 that Pagliaro and other community parents decided to operate and run the program. In order to do so, they first needed to establish an organizational structure for the program. Late Senator William J. Larkin Jr. and late Congressman Maurice Hinchey offered their support in favor of their venture when going for approval at the state and federal level.
Following their successful grant application, in September of 2002, the program moved into their current location, the former St. Mary’s School building on Gidney Avenue, after operating out of three community locations. They have remained there since then.
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Head Start had to close in March of 2020. During the closure, federal government continued to support the organizations efforts, allowing the program to be maintained and support all of the staff.
As the executive director of the program, Pagliaro’s duties were the oversight and maintenance of the program. She served as Head Start’s health consultant during the current pandemic by maintaining health protocols and making sure that students were still able to receive learning.
According to Pagliaro, Head Start reopened for in-person classes on October 5, 2020, experiencing a few classroom closures. On November 19, they went fully remote. FaceTime, Zoom and other online services became the new ways of interaction and learning for the children and their families. On January 19, 2021, Head Start re-opened for in person classes again and remained open and in-person through the end of the school year.
Coming from a health background, health and wellness are important to Pagliaro and her commitment to the program over the last 39 years is why this program holds a special place in her heart.
“My passion was for ensuring that every child have the opportunity to succeed,” Pagliaro said. “That they had the supports they need, that they were safe, that they were healthy, they were nourished, and that they were encouraged to learn, discover, experience and become successful students and productive participants in their community.”
According to Pagliaro, Head Start is focusing its current efforts on preparing for the upcoming school year.
Even with the pandemic on-going, the Newburgh community continues to meet its challenges and hardships, which continue to inspire Pagliaro.
“My heart will always be in Newburgh. I’ve certainly seen times of growth and opportunity, times of challenge but I absolutely believe in its resilience that it will continue to grow and be a great place for families to be successful,” Pagliaro said. “I see the Head Start program as being a gem in this community and continuing to be so.”
The center is currently in the process of recruiting children for the new school year. Parents can reach out to Head Start on their website, www.hseoc.org, with questions or interest in enrollment.