03/10/05 — Wayne schools receive national health award

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Wayne schools receive national health award

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 10, 2005 1:52 PM

The Wayne County Public Schools system has received a $10,000 national award for its innovative school-based health programs.

The school system was named a winner of the 2005 National Civic Star Award. The award is sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators and Sodexho School Services. The local presentation was made Wednesday at Brogden Middle School.

Brogden is one of five sites for the Wayne Initiative for School Health or WISH centers. The centers were established in 1997 as a way to make health services more accessible to youths.

The other centers are located at Dillard, Goldsboro and Mount Olive middle schools, and at Goldsboro High School.

This is the third year that the award has been given out. David Seal, senior marketing manager for Sodexho, based in Washington, D.C., said it originated as a way to recognize schools for being involved in community activities.

"We wanted to do something that recognizes that schools and communities work together ... what comes from pooling resources together," Seal said.

Applications were received from school districts across the country, he said, with 28 state winners named before the pool was narrowed to the national recipient.

Rich Williams, senior vice-president for Sodexho, said Wayne County has much to be proud of in its school-based health centers.

"It's amazing what can be done when groups come together for a common challenge and need," he said. "There are a lot of good people and a lot of good work that's being done."

Williams presented a check to Dr. Steve Taylor, superintendent of schools, along with plaques for the state and national awards, and a crystal award for excellence.

Plaques were also awarded to the eight organizations that supported the WISH center idea - Goldsboro Pediatrics, Wayne County Health Department, Eastpointe Mental Health in Wayne County, Communities in Schools, Wayne Memorial Hospital, Wayne Department of Social Services, Wayne County Commissioners, and Goldsboro City Council.

Williams said a booklet outlining Wayne County's program as well as the other state entries will be sent to 14,000 school districts across the country.

"One of the objectives is that a lot of these successful programs will be replicated," he said.

Williams also thanked Dr. Dave Tayloe of Goldsboro Pediatrics, an early proponent of the idea, for his vision.

Tayloe recalled being approached by Sissy Lee-Elmore, executive director of WATCH, after Wayne County was ranked ninth in the state for having under- or uninsured school-aged children. A grant was available, she told him, if members of the community and physicians were interested in backing it.

"That was the spirit of WISH," Tayloe said, "people around the table who could play a part in this.

"If anything, this was a collaborative joint venture, to care for children that don't have access to care."

Taylor said the WISH centers have provided non-traditional services and produced positive results.

"The health care concept is contagious," he said. "I know in talking with superintendents across the state, they're in some ways envious of what's happening in Wayne County."

Statistics released by school officials said the centers have improved school attendance and drastically decreased the number of emergency room visits by adolescents. The number of teen pregnancies has also dropped by 75 percent.

During the Wednesday morning ceremonies, the mother of a sixth grader at Brogden Middle also shared her experiences with the WISH center.

Tonya Randolph said the center had been a big help to her family. Her daughter Nikia has allergies and severe asthma.

"It makes it much easier, instead of getting off work or my husband picking her up, she goes to the WISH center," she said. "A couple of times, they told us we needed to go to the doctor, that we needed more medications .... When we went, we found out we did need to change the dosage."

Shirley Sims, who serves on the Board of Education and the WISH board, also acknowledged the efforts of Phyllis Hill, director of the WISH centers.

"She's a nervous gem," Ms. Sims said, "wanting to make sure that everything goes well to keep those WISH centers."