NEW ALBANY —
No one is irreplaceable, but then again there is only one Judy Quick.
For 35 years she worked at Floyd County Head Start, spending the last 12 years as the director. She began her teaching career at the old West Spring Street School in New Albany and also taught reading at S. Ellen Jones. But once she accepted a job with Head Start more than three decades ago, she found her true calling.
Now the face of the organization has decided to retire. At 73, Quick said she won’t have to get up at 4 a.m. on snow days to call media outlets or worry about whether Head Start’s main funding source, the federal government, will slash budgets.
But she won’t be easily replaced.
“How do you replace someone like that,” asked Joyce Hines, administrative assistant at Floyd County Head Start. “The lives of the children and staff that she has touched is immeasurable. She is one of the kindest and caring people I know.”
Quick attended Thursday’s end-of-year celebration held at the National Guard Armory along Grant Line Road. As children and their parents arrived, Quick was at a table greeting each one with a smile, the same way she has greeted them for 35 years.
“I can’t put into words what she has meant to this program,” Hines said. “Everyone is sad to see her leave. That should tell you something about the kind of person she is.”
Head Start is for children 3 and 4 years old [they may turn 5 during the school year] and is designed for low-income families. The most a family of four can make for their child to be eligible for Head Start is $22,000 a year.
Quick said there were 276 children in the program this year. She said the program does exactly what it is supposed to do — it gives children a head start as they prepare for kindergarten. There are two Head Start sites in Floyd County — Corydon Pike and at the Children’s Academy. There are 15 teachers and 15 teacher’s aides employed by the organization.
Quick said she never considered leaving or moving on to another job once she began her Head Start career.
“It gets in your blood,” she said. “It’s a challenge. We have become more multicultural. It has changed so much over the years.”
Quick said she always wanted to be a teacher, getting her start at a young age.
“I remember when I was kid lining up all the little kids and pretending I was teaching,” she said.
Quick said since Head Start relies on the federal government for funding, some years are more challenging than others. She said the program faced cuts last year due to the sequestration, but no teachers were let go — only the end of year celebration was canceled.
Head Start also receives, and appreciates, grants and help from organizations, she said. The Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County has given the program more than $100,000 and other civic organizations like Rotary help out each year.
At Thursday’s event, several of those organizations set up booths and handed out free items to the children and their parents. The New Albany-Floyd County Public Library gave out books, there were bouncy houses, miniature golf and information for programs like Habitat for Humanity.
Quick said Head Start has seen many changes over the years. At one time there were seven sites. She also said some people have criticized the program and wondered whether it works. She said without hesitation that it does. Quick said most of her students would not be able to go to other daycares or preschools without Head Start.
“I am really proud of it,” she said of the program. “I am going to miss it but it’s time for younger hands to take over. It’s my passion to make sure these children have the skills they need heading into kindergarten. We feel like it is money well spent.”
SO YOU KNOW
• Learn more about Floyd County Head Start at fcheadstart.com or 812-948-8600.