Mayor Says He Is “Disappointed” By Selma Head Start “False And Inflammatory Letter”

SELMA – Selma Mayor Bryan McAllister responded Tuesday night to a widely circulated letter on the Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. Facebook page about Selma Head Start.

McAllister

The January 4, 2023 letter states, “Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action has been notified by the Town of Selma that we need to vacate the building located at 305 South Green Street so the building may be used to house administrative offices and other programs.”

Mayor McAllister said that is simply not true. “The Town of Selma has not notified the Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action organization that they must vacate the building at 305 South Green Street. First, we did not ask the organization to vacate any buildings. Second, the Selma Head Start program is not located at 305 South Green Street. 305 South Green Street is a private residence. The Richard B. Harrison building that Selma Head Start occupies is at 605 W Noble Street,” the mayor said.

“I got a very nice email on Saturday morning from a parent. Near the start of this email, the parent states, “I was just on Facebook and saw that there are discussions about shutting down Selma Head Start to place offices and other administrative businesses.” In response to that general notion, the Town of Selma does not have the authority to shut down Selma Head Start. Whether or not Selma Head Start operates is up to the leadership of Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action Inc.”

“The email closes with, “The children of Selma NEED this program to stay running. They need as much help as they can get Mr. McAllister. All the other children deserve the same opportunity my children had. I pray that you make the right choice (for) the future of Selma. Thank you for your time.” I agree. All children deserve the same opportunity this parent’s child had.”

The Mayor said the Town of Selma did formally provide a 12-month notice to terminate the current lease agreement with Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. for the Richard B. Harrison Center. The current lease began on March 1, 2021. That notice was sent in November of 2022. That means Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. will still have a lease with the Town of Selma, at the very least, until November of 2023.

“I visited Ms. E. Marie Watson and Ms. Donna Barnette to let them know the Town of Selma did not intend to run them out of the building located at Richard B. Harrison in November of 2023. The letter was a formality since we intend to change the lease agreement. I was not coy with Ms. Watson and Ms. Barnette. The Town of Selma has long suspected the Selma Head Start program needed more space. We first discussed it in my freshman year on the Selma Town Council. I let them know that we hope to work with the Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action Inc. Selma Head Start program to help them find themselves or build a space to serve Selma’s needs better. I also let them know that we would eventually move the town’s Parks & Recreation Department into its current space. Ms. Watson and Ms. Barnette were told that the Town of Selma would terminate the current lease for the Richard B. Harrison space with Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. The Town of Selma has not told anyone at Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. or the Head Start program that they must vacate the Richard B. Harrison building. They were told the timeline for the Parks & Recreation move depended on how our collective efforts to get a better space for the Selma Head Start program went.”

Mayor Allister continued, “Ms. Watson and Ms. Barnette shared an information sheet about the Selma Head Start program. There are 51 children enrolled that have three classrooms in the current space. There are 17 children per classroom and eight staff working with these children. There are 131 children on the waiting list for the program. That is 131 children that this program cannot serve because there needs to be more space in the current location. This tells me we must work harder to ensure all the other children get the same opportunity. I am told the town of Selma is leasing the current space to Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. has an interior square footage of 3,575 square feet. The information sheet also mentions a fenced playground area that has a square footage of 21,500 square feet. The Town of Selma has leased this space to Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. at a monthly rate of $750.00 for over 20 years. I understand that to serve most of the children still in need, the program would need an interior space closer to 10,000 square feet.”

“We are all experiencing growth in Johnston County. We are discussing the future of Town-owned spaces with community partners and the need for our operations to expand into those spaces. We recognize that more structures and buildings are needed to care for our population adequately. Neuse Charter School once called Richard B. Harrison home and outgrew the space. They went on to build an impressive school in Smithfield. My Kids Club will be breaking ground on their new building after years of hard work to replace the building lost to a hurricane. Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. built an impressive 10,000 square-foot office building in front of the Head Start of Smithfield that opened in 2012. We believe that after 48 years, they can do better for the Selma Head Start program; quite frankly, the Town of Selma expects them to work to do so. We have offered our help and support to make a better space for the Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action Selma Head Start program children.”

The Mayor said the Town of Selma has already reached out to government partners to discuss an improved space for the Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. Selma Head Start program to serve our children better, including the US Department of Agriculture and Johnston County Government leadership.

“We are disappointed that instead of coming to the table to figure out how we can better serve our population, the leadership at Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. decided to produce a false and inflammatory letter about the Town of Selma. Our hope, from now on, is that the leadership at Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc. will work to better serve our entire community instead of diverting energy to efforts that distract us all from the real issues,” McAllister said.

14 COMMENTS

  1. The mayor should be ashamed of hisself He changed the lease because they are goin a a month to month lease which means at anytime they can get kicked out. Why even mess with the head start. He would only let 5 people talk and no one else could speak. He was really rude in the meeting. He needs to remember he only got 306 votes so he needs to enjoy it because he will be voted out the next time . He does not care about the kids at all. If you where there you would have seen that

  2. Kudos to the Mayor for holding JLHCA accountable and for standing up to their falsifications. If they can build a 10,000sf office, instead of putting the money into a larger facility for the actual participants of the program, then they may require a change in leadership. When they put their own needs ahead of the very people they are supposedly helping, they begin to look like our foes in Washington, DC. Shameful display of arrogance!

  3. So they built a 10k office space and are upset because the town is giving them 12 months to move the kids out a cramped leased space that they rent? Maybe they should downsize the office space to 6500 and give the rest to the kids in head start?

  4. So they rent over 3000 sq ft of office/ business space for $750 a month, less than most 900 sq ft apt’s these days. While 2012 was a while back, they managed to find money to build a 10k space then, seems they need to quit railroading the Town of Selma and its residents and start looking into state and federal funds that can enable them to expand and keep up with growth. I doubt they would “kick them out”, but it may be the incentive the headstart action committee needs to focus on finding funds to address future growth

  5. I stopped reading at 750/mo for said property. Sorry. Times have changed. The mayor is right. MORE kids deserve the same opportunity. Time for a better solution.

  6. Hey Mayor
    Take a ride down W.Railroad St.
    The worst street in Selma.
    Pot holes,broken pavement.
    Stop filling in with gravel and resurface the street.

  7. Really hate to see politics when it comes to a 501C. Let’s go JLHCA. Shake the dust off and give the town who deserves it the opportunity to serve you! Don’t worry about it and keep pushing to do what you do best. That’s show up and show out for our babies. Bye Selma!

  8. Mayor McCallister is good man and he genuinely cares about this town and the people in it. Always involved with functions around and doesn’t hide from the people. He is helping to build a better Selma.

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