05/28/12 — Communities in Schools seeks more funding sources

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Communities in Schools seeks more funding sources

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 28, 2012 1:46 PM

Just six months into her role as executive director of Communities in Schools for Wayne County, Selena Bennett is in the throes of getting it accredited, with an eye toward funding and expanding programs and services.

She explained that every Communities in Schools agency is required to align with the national guidelines to become accredited in order to strengthen the program.

"That means that our staff is trained, our board of directors receives training and information, the trainings that we run are all measured," Mrs. Bennett said. "It makes us accountable and responsible for the services that we're offering to students."

The process began in February, she said, and is to be completed in 2013.

"We have a five-year strategic plan that we have to formulate and meet those goals and objectives and we also have an annual plan that we have to formalize and follow," Mrs. Bennett said. "We have a national team (that) will come here in late winter, early spring, and review everything that we have to do."

Some services are offered at every school, such as school supplies, speakers and efforts to recruit and establish volunteer programs.

But Communities in Schools may be best known for its affiliation with Teen Court and introducing graduation coaches at two high schools, Goldsboro and Southern Wayne.

The graduation coach concept has been a good one and across the nation, CIS has become known as the "No. 1 dropout prevention agency," she says, but more can be done.

"My first goal is that I would like to expand into additional schools -- high school or middle schools and have additional success coaches," Mrs. Bennett said. "In other counties they call them success coach or site coordinator, but I think success coach, they can work at any level.

"We know that in order to increase the graduation rate, that begins from Day 1. It does not begin when a child gets to their junior or senior year."

Ideally, she said, she envisions funding the coach position to the point where one or two schools can be added each year.

At present, the CIS budget is around $250,000 she said. Of that, half comes from JCPC, or Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, which strictly covers the Teen Court program.

United Way has also supported Teen Court and provided a challenge grant this past year that continued the graduation coach position at Southern Wayne.

Support from the city and county have also been enlisted to contribute to the graduation coach position since it was first introduced at Goldsboro High School in 2009.

"Right now I'm in a wait-and-see mode as to what funding dollars I will be offered from the county and city," she said Thursday. "Other sources include grant money and we have also approached local businesses and some organizations."

A community fundraiser, a pancake breakfast, is planned for Saturday from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at Applebee's on Spence Avenue. Tickets are $7.

But there is still a need for something more substantial, Mrs. Bennett said.

"Right now we are trying to figure out what our gala or signature fundraiser will be," she said. "We are looking to partner with another agency or organization and I'm looking at the possibility of looking at something in the fall.

"My goal is to have two successful fundraisers -- one in the fall semester, one in the spring semester."

Fortunately, she noted, CIS is a reputable agency with well-established partnerships, including the school system.

"Kudos to a positive working relationship with (schools superintendent) Dr. (Steven) Taylor and his staff," she said. "And there is such a solid foundation that has been built by Sudie Davis (her predecessor). Coming in, I was able to start the accreditation process by building on what was already here."

Mrs. Davis, she pointed out, had been with the local CIS since it started 20 years ago and recently retired.

"I'm trying to take that and continue with the program that's there but expand as we go to accreditation."