Waldo Community Action Partners has hired Katherine Johnston as its new Head Start director and has promoted Nancy Darlington to the position of Early Head Start manager. The Head Start Program serves 182 children at 16 sites. The Early Head Start option will serve 40 home-based children and families, five center-based children and five expecting mothers.

On Feb. 18, Katherine Johnston was chosen by a committee of Board and Policy Council members and approved by the Regional Office in Boston to be the new Head Start Director. Head Start works with parents and their 3- to 5-year-old children, providing opportunities for the entire family to grow and learn in the areas of nutrition, health, child development and social skills. Johnston said, “I think Head Start overall is an amazing program, promoting the whole child, medically, physically, mentally and emotionally. The entire family is part of the programming, versus the isolated child.”

Johnston holds a master’s degree in early childhood development with a minor in Montessori education. With more than 20 years in early education, Johnston received the “Innovative Educator” award from the state of Maine for developing a volunteer-run preschool program where she empowered the parents to be the children’s teachers.

Before arriving at WCAP, Johnston taught in public schools in kindergarten. She has experience with Head Start and Early Head Start from her five-year employment with Penquis CAP. She comes to the position with additional experience in early intervention services for children age’s birth to 5 years old. Johnston has also led programs through the National Association for Educating Young Children accreditation processes. A resident of Orrington, she is married with one child and is a self-professed “rock hound,” a collector of rocks and stones, a hobby she shares with her 6-year-old son.

Nancy Darlington was promoted to the position of Early Head Start manager on Feb. 9. She will oversee this program for low-income families with infants and toddlers (birth to 3 years old) and pregnant women. As the Early Head Start manager, Darlington will be responsible for promoting healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women; enhancing the development of very young children, and promoting healthy family functioning.

Darlington has been serving as the interim Head Start director since August 2009. Prior to assuming that position, she had been Head Start’s assistant director/education & disabilities supervisor since 2006. In that position, she had oversight of professional development for Head Start staff, the educational component of the program, and the provision of services for children with special needs. In particular, she strengthened her Head Start staff’s ability to support the social/emotional development of children in the classrooms by meeting their needs and building resiliency. She said, “Emotionally healthy children are ready to learn and be successful in school and in life.”

Darlington has been active in the field of early care and education for more than 25 years. She holds a master’s degree from Wheelock College in early childhood education with a focus on public policy and leadership. She has worked in many aspects of early education, including: family child care, as a Head Start classroom teacher, an owner/director of a child care facility, a mentor for teen parents and a public school teacher.

Darlington serves on Waldo County Child Development Services Board of Directors and is a member of the Maine Association for Mental Infant Health. For fun, Darlington spends her time dog-sledding with six of her own dogs. “I’ve learned so much from them in terms of teamwork,” she said. “Every one of them has individual strengths, issues and things they have to learn. But the team functions because of all of the relationships and trust that develop between the dogs and myself. Good lessons for all of us!”

Katherine Johnston and Nancy Darlington are interested in getting to know the community organizations serving Waldo County and can be reached at 338-6809, x203 (Johnston) and x 209 (Darlington).