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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — After more than four decades of leadership as CEO for HCS Head Start Inc., Janis Santos plans to retire at the end of the year. A search for a new CEO is underway.

Santos began her professional teaching career by opening one of the first early-childhood centers in Ludlow in 1973, Parkside Early Learning Center. In 1979, she was hired as executive director of Holyoke Chicopee Head Start Inc. Under her leadership, the organization has grown to be the second-largest Head Start in Massachusetts and one of the largest providers of early-childhood education in Western Mass.

Santos is a pioneer in the early education and care field. A graduate of Holyoke Community College and UMass Amherst, she began teaching at a time when the greater public viewed her chosen career as babysitting. For close to five decades, her unwavering advocacy at the local, state, and national levels has helped change the perception of early-childhood education. She has led the charge ensuring that children from vulnerable backgrounds have access to high-quality early learning, and helped to legitimize and professionalize the field.

Santos has chaired the Massachusetts Head Start Directors Assoc. and the New England Head Start Assoc., and was a member of the national advisory panel for the Head Start 2010 Project in Washington, D.C. in 1999. She was also a UCLA Head Start management fellow in the Anderson School of Management and served on the National Head Start Assoc. board of directors from 1997 to 2011. She served as the NHSA vice chairperson from 2007 to 2011.

“As the board chair for HCS Head Start, I have witnessed the tireless efforts of Janis to secure funding and resources to continuously improve and expand services for the children, families, and staff of HCS Head Start,” Susan Gosselin said. “Under her leadership, partnerships were formed with MGM Springfield, the Educare Learning Network, Springfield College, the City of Chicopee, and Kaplan Early Learning Company that resulted in the opening of four state-of-the-art early-childhood centers in Springfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke that children and families will enjoy for many years. Janis is the face of HCS Head Start, and although she is retiring, her spirit and legacy will be with us for many years to come.”

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from birth to age 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Holyoke Chicopee Springfield Head Start Inc. has a long history of providing high-quality early-education and support services to children and families in the community.