Boulware resigns as director, reflects on years at the center

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 20, 2013

After 16 1/2 years, Mary Stewart Boulware is leaving her position as center director at Franklinton Head Start.

Boulware, a Bogalusa native and resident, came in as center director in Jan. 16, 1997, not originally picturing it as a long-term job.

“I came out here just for a few years to have something to do, and I got hooked,” she said, smiling.

Taking over for Jewel Tageant, who had been in the position 25 years, Boulware said she stepped into a center that was well staffed and well run.

“And I just picked it up from there,” she said.

There was much growth and progress at the center under Boulware’s guidance. Franklinton Head Start was accredited through National Association for the Education of Young Children in May 1997. The center goes through a reaccreditation process every five years. It was also named a Five Star center in May 2012, with that designation coming through the state of Louisiana in conjunction with Louisiana Pathways and re-evaluated every two years, she said.

During Boulware’s time as center director the outdoor learning facilities were revamped. The center put mulch under the swings and slides about 10 years ago and progressed to soft foam fall zones about four years ago, with that provided through a United Way donation, she said.

When Boulware started, the center had one building and six classrooms with 20 children each.

“In 2000 we brought in the Early Head Start program and added another playground and another building and another set of staff,” she said.

Boulware saw her staff members increase their level of education over the years, and numerous parents were able to complete their education because Head Start was there for their child. She said she is proud of what her Head Start children have accomplished, too, and is happy when she finds out how well her former students and their parents are doing.

“Working with poverty-level families was so rewarding as it took a special quality to show them that they can accomplish goals and upgrade their life and to become a role model for their own children,” she said. “Everyone wants to be successful in something, and sometimes no one had ever told them that they could achieve something. They just needed that little extra push to believe in themselves.”

She gave an example of a mother of three small children who had been in an abusive situation. The mother left her husband, completed her GED, became a substitute at Franklinton Head Start and completed her CDA credential, Boulware said.

“This parent now lives in Covington and works for the St. Tammany Parish School System and is proud to be a productive citizen,” she said. “She never gave up, and neither did I. It’s what kept me going.”

A 1963 graduate of Bogalusa High School, Boulware earned a teaching certificate at LSU and then taught second grade and kindergarten classes in the Bogalusa City Schools from 1966 through 1988. She first taught at Pleasant Hill and then at Denhamtown. There, she served under principals Theresa P. Keller and Bert Breland, who were role models for her educational career, she said. Her fellow kindergarten teacher at Denhamtown was Mary Louise Levy.

Boulware also wanted to mention Yvonne Griffith, her teacher in eighth grade.

“She was one of those teachers who did more than teach,” she said. “Mrs. Griffith is still my inspiration today and my neighbor down the street.”

After her retirement from teaching in the public schools, she and her sister, Flo Boyles, opened a daycare and operated it for six years. Boulware, who was an at-large member of the Bogalusa City Council from 1990-94, sold the daycare in 1994 and began working with children and adults with disabilities, doing case management.

That background and experience helped prepare Boulware for her position at Head Start, she said.

“I was able to bring that to Head Start, and Head Start showed me all the other things I needed to know in order to be a center director,” she said.

Boulware’s decision to retire is something that evolved over several weeks and one she arrived at through prayer. She said she “just knew it was the right time.”

Sequestration brought on a 5.27 percent budget cut to the center’s budget. Those cuts took effect June 1, the start of the fiscal year.

There are fewer spots available for children for the upcoming year, and Boulware had to cut eight positions in Franklinton — two teachers, two assistants, two Early Head Start teachers, a support staff person and a food service worker.

“When you’ve had to let eight people go, it’s hard not to place yourself in that same position as them,” she said.

Boulware said she is currently a center director IV, and pay is based on the number of children.

“At one time I had 151 children,” she said. “They would have continued to pay me that, even though I was only going to have 108 children.”

A new person can be paid much less, said Boulware, who submitted her letter of resignation Tuesday. She will be at the center until July 31. The person who will be filling the spot has not been selected, but she said there are supervisors who can step in if need be until someone is chosen.

Boulware’s husband of 47 years, John, retired 12 years ago.

“I told him I’m going to disrupt his routine,” she joked, adding that the two also plan to travel.

She said she is appreciative of the time she’s had at the center.

“I am thankful for the opportunities that I have been given at Franklinton Head Start to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others,” she said.