Head Start boss removed

WINDOW ROCK

She’s gone.

According to a press release from the president’s office on Aug. 2, the Department of Diné Education removed the superintendent of Navajo Nation Head Start, Sharon Singer, effective at 5 p.m. on July 28.

“The decision to remove Singer comes at the conclusion of an investigation warranted by the federal Office of Head Start, in which the investigation found that Singer engaged in egregious misconduct and misuse of Navajo Nation funds,” the statement said.

Sharon Singer portrait

Sharon Singer

The statement gave the perspective of President Russell Begaye on the investigation.

“Whenever serious allegations are raised by federal funding agencies against any of our employees, we must be diligent in examining the areas of question,” Begaye said.

Ann Linehan, acting director of the Washington Office of Head Start, had called on Begaye to investigate Singer in a June letter.

“When the federal program from D.C., which funds Navajo Head Start, notified the Navajo Nation, we responded by asking for documentation,” Begaye said.

“We made sure that we didn’t move forward in accusing any of our employees without any valid basis,” he said.

According to the statement, if the Navajo Nation didn’t conduct an investigation into the allegations against Singer, federal agencies would have.

“I don’t believe the federal government should impose these types of investigations on sovereign nations, that is the responsibility of the tribe,” he said.

In previous reporting on this story, Superintendent Tommy Lewis said that letter prompted the investigation. Lewis identified two outside firms brought in to investigate – Noon and Associates of Albuquerque as primary investigator and a global firm called KPMG as secondary investigator. Neither group confirmed a role in the investigation.

Lewis said the Navajo Nation and its children deserve accountability, transparency and good leadership.

“We’re determined to continue to make Navajo Head Start a successful program serving our children,” Lewis said. “We want to make sure that we continue to provide a high-quality educational program and we are determined to have Navajo Head Start function at a higher level of standards, professionalism and accountability. Our children deserve the best.”

Singer was unavailable for comment.


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Christopher S. Pineo

Reporter Christopher S. Pineo's beats include education, construction, the executive branch, and pop culture. He also administers the Navajo Times Facebook page. In the diverse neighborhoods of Boston, Pineo worked, earned a master’s in journalism, and gained 10 years of newspaper experience. He can be reached at Chrisp@navajotimes.com.