08/18/09 — Council approves $29,000 for new graduation coach

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Council approves $29,000 for new graduation coach

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 18, 2009 1:46 PM

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Chuck Allen

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Michael Headen

The Goldsboro City Council voted Monday evening to help the Wayne County government fund a graduation coach at Goldsboro High School.

But several council members said their $29,000 pledge -- money that will be used by Communities in Schools in Wayne County to implement a pilot program akin to one that has proven successful in Georgia -- won't solve the "real problem" facing Goldsboro's inner-city schools.

"I wish that you would go back and some way attack the real problem," council member Bob Waller told CIS director Sudie Davis. "When I came here in 1962 ... we were a 4-A school and GHS was in the top seven in the state. Now, this year, we are a 1-A and we're under the threat of a judge."

Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen agreed.

"I graduated from GHS so this comes from the heart. There are problems bigger than this that I think the community needs to understand," he said. "I guess my biggest thing is I think we're enabling the school board. I go and I look and I read in the paper where (GHS principal Pat Burden) says, don't blame her, don't blame the administration and don't blame the school board. Well, damn, somebody is responsible."

Council member Michael Headen turned to his colleagues for clarification.

"What is the real problem," Headen said. "I keep asking people, 'What is the problem? What is the problem? ... Unless we are willing to define what the problem is, there isn't going to be any progress. ... Unless it's an issue, we'll talk about the boogie man here, unless it's an issue of race."

"Well it is race. Of course it's race," Allen replied. "It's the fact that 99 percent of the central attendance area is black. It's the fact that 90 percent of the central attendance area is poor. And it's the fact that nobody's looking after these kids. ... It is what it is."

Now that the program is fully funded -- $29,000 from both the city and county boards -- Ms. Davis, with the help of Wayne County Development Alliance existing industry specialist Mike Haney, will work to implement it this year.

The graduation coach will not be an employee of the school system, but rather will work through CIS. The position will be advertised. However, Haney said that a local resident who has experience as a graduation coach in another state has expressed an interest in the job.

The coach would identify and provide early intervention services to students at risk of dropping out or otherwise not graduating. Those duties would include motivating students to focus on a graduation plan, providing direct student support and case management, encouraging parent/community involvement and negotiating extra help services.

Over the six years the program has been used in Georgia, the graduation rate has grown from 63.3 to 75.4 percent, while the dropout rate has fallen, Haney said.

After the vote, members of the council applauded Haney and Ms. Davis for their efforts and wished them well.

But before they left, Mayor Al King reiterated what Waller and Allen had said.

"This $29,000 isn't going to do much until we get some real change," he said.