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Salary CAP: Exploring Compensation and COLA for the Head Start Workforce in Community Action Programs

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The average salary of Community Action Agency jobs varies according to location, department, and job description as well as experience, skills, and education. All CAAs across the country work to foster pay equity and manage compensation costs, but how does this impact Head Start and Early Head Start staff–especially when they receive an administrative Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) or substantial increases in pay and other CAA staff do not? Join us to explore CAA compensation and benefits structure, current and future workforce needs, and what CAA and Head Start and Early Head Start leadership can do to attract and retain the most qualified employees.


Ryan Gelman, Project Director, Public Policy and Advocacy, National Community Action Partnership
Ryan GelmanMr. Gelman provides analysis on anti-poverty policies that affect the Community Action Network, including the Community Services Block Grant, nutrition assistance, affordable housing, early childhood education, and tax issues. He also advises and trains Community Action organizations on effective advocacy strategies and customer empowerment through civic engagement. Before his current role, Mr. Gelman completed a criminal justice fellowship in the United States Senate. He also served as a Legislative Director in the Massachusetts State Senate, where he focused on health care, immigration, and consumer protection legislation. Mr. Gelman is a graduate of Emerson College and Northeastern University School of Law.


  • Veronica Zhang, Deputy Director and Senior Counsel, CAPLAW
    Veronica ZhangMs. Zhang advises community action agencies nationwide on strategic, operational, and legal matters, including tax-exempt law, employment law, Head Start and other government grant compliance, and corporate governance. Prior to joining CAPLAW, Ms. Zhang was a business law associate at Goodwin Procter, where she represented public and private companies in mergers and acquisitions and other strategic collaborations. She also helped nonprofit organizations operate and maintain tax-exempt status. Ms. Zhang is a graduate of Yale University and Boston University School of Law.
  • Caroline Santilli, Staff Attorney, CAPLAW
    Caroline SantilliMs. Santilli advises community action agencies on legal issues related to governance, strategic collaborations, federal grant compliance, tax-exempt law, employment, and other matters. Prior to joining CAPLAW, she was a corporate law associate in the Boston office of Ropes and Gray where she worked on leveraged acquisitions and debt refinancing transactions. She also represented pro bono clients in connection with their applications for asylum in the United States. Ms. Santilli is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and Northeastern University School of Law.
  • Arlene Dobison, Chief Executive Officer, The Agricultural and Labor Program
    Arlene DobisonMs. Dobison manages a budget over $41 Million, with programs that provide a full spectrum of services to improve the quality of life for Children and Families. She brings over 29 years of experience in the non-Profit arena, primarily community action, and has served as Human Resources Director, Finance Director, and Executive Director of Lowcountry Community Action Agency in Walterboro, SC. Employed by South Carolina’s Office of the Governor, as Senior Manager of Fiscal Services, served as a Federal Reviewer for the United States Government. Ms. Dobison earned a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.
  • Jennifer Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer, Utah Community Action
    Ms. Godfrey is a longtime advocate for children and families and oversees one of Utah’s largest nonprofit agencies, consisting of six distinctive core programs with a total agency budget of nearly $50 million. She has worked as a preschool teacher, school guidance counselor and as a clinical mental health counselor. She is an active member of the American Counseling Association and is an alumni of Alpha Chi Omega at the University of Utah. Mrs. Godfrey has a Bachelor of Science in Family and Child Development, a Master’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Counseling.
  • Stacy Weight, Chief Administrative Officer, Utah Community Action
    Ms. Weight oversees corporate integrity, legal, policy oversight, risk management, human resources, information technology, finance, and accounting for the Utah Community Action, Utah’s largest Head Start program serving approximately 2,100 children and their families. Prior to being with Head Start, Ms. Weight was a senior innovator for the Children’s Miracle Network. She has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Utah Valley State College and a Masters of Business Administration from Westminster College She earned her CPA in 2009.

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