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Grad coach project to get $100,000

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 13, 2012 1:46 PM

An unexpected $100,000 contribution from the Wayne County ABC Board not only will allow the county to preserve the graduation coach program at Southern Wayne High School, but to expand the program into three middle schools as well.

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning approved a motion by Commissioner J.D. Evans to accept the money and necessary budget adjustments earmarking it for the graduation coach program.

However, Mike Myrick, Wayne ABC Board general manager, said the offer is not yet official and wouldn't be until the first of August.

"There is no doubt they will get at least $100,000," Myrick said. "This is a one-time thing."

The money became available because of state changes to the amount of working capital local ABC boards can have. The amount was reduced from four months to two months of working capital generated by liquor sales, he said.

Another $100,000 will be split about 80/20 between Goldsboro and Mount Olive, Myrick said.

County Manager Lee Smith told commissioners he had been contacted by Myrick about the money.

"There are really no strings attached to that," Smith said. "However, as part of the discussion of proper use of funds and having additional dollars, what do you do? Rather than just going to the general fund and being absorbed let's look at it specifically."

Smith said he had gone back and looked over some of the budget requests that had been made, including one from Communities in Schools, which operates the graduation coach program.

Smith said he had spoken with Selena Bennett, Communities in Schools executive director, who told him the timing was perfect because the agency was losing the state funding for the graduation coach at Southern Wayne High School at Dudley.

The $100,000 could be used for two part-time people at Southern Wayne and to expand the program to Mount Olive, Brogden and Grantham middle schools, Smith said.

Of the total, $92,000 would be used to pay for the coaches and $8,000 for administration, mileage and training, Smith said.

"There has been a lot of discussion about waiting until high school (for such a program)," he said. "Obviously there needs to be a contribution to these folks in high schools, but we need to start in middle schools an intensive mentoring and tutoring.

"These schools were brought forth not by our staff but by Communities in Schools and the school board staff. They took a look at their high-risk kids were and said these schools were in great need of this type of assistance."

Graduation coaches are getting a new name as well -- success coaches, Smith said.

"We feel like that was all you were really concentrating on so we now are calling them "success coaches" that is what we are trying to instill into these young adults," he said.

Smith said he thought it was important for the public to understand the positive impact the coaches have had at Goldsboro and Southern Wayne high schools.

"Goldsboro High School was at a 50 to 51 percent (graduation) rate," he said. "We feel like with the help of the graduation coach program and volunteers now documented, they have the graduation rate up to almost 69 percent. That is pretty incredible in that short amount of time period.

"Southern Wayne ranged anywhere from 60 to 65 or 66 percent and it is up to almost 74 percent. The principals are so excited about this program."

The program at Goldsboro High School will continue as funded with $30,000 from the county, Smith said.

Commissioner Steve Keen called the money a "great addition" in funding a much-needed area in education particularly in the southern part of the county.

However, he cautioned about the sustainability of the program and not to forget where the money came from -- a surprise from the ABC Board.

"I would encourage you to watch the trend and see how it works this year and hopefully make it a part of the budget next year that we can continue to promote the program," Keen said. "I think it is a great program."

Smith said Keen was correct since it was a "one-time" funding and there are no guarantees the money will be available again next year.

As such, the program is being viewed as more of a pilot, he said.

"Let's track it this year and look at our revenues next year and let's see if we have the same success," Smith said. "That is partly why they are going to part time."

If there is no money next year, the board would have to decide if it wanted to use county funds to continue the program, he said.