09/24/12 — Success coaches placed at four area middle schools

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Success coaches placed at four area middle schools

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 24, 2012 1:46 PM

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Veda McNair, right, jots down ideas during a training session with Communities in Schools prior to beginning duties earlier this month as a success coach at Spring Creek Middle School. Also pictured, from left, are Elvira Carreno, success coach at Brogden Middle, and Barbara Wilkins, success coach at Goldsboro High School since 2009.

Four success coaches have been added to the rosters at middle schools in the southern end of the county, as officials use unexpected funds to offer extra help for students there.

The bulk of the funding to hire the part-time staff came from a $100,000 contribution from the Wayne County ABC Board over the summer, with additional money contributed by United Way.

Communities in Schools of Wayne County oversees the graduation coach program first introduced at Goldsboro High School in 2009 and introduced a similar position at Southern Wayne High the following year. Both of those positions had been funded by city and county money, as well as federal funds.

The decision to expand the program this year at feeder schools in southern Wayne County provides an opportunity to work with students at an earlier age, said Selena Bennett, executive director of Communities in Schools.

The new staff members started at their respective schools earlier this month. Two additional hires were expected to begin sharing duties at Southern Wayne upon completion of additional training.

Forty-two candidates applied for the jobs, Mrs. Bennett said. A committee pared down the number to 12, who were then interviewed before the "dream team" was determined, she said.

"We wanted people that were passionate in regard to working with kids," she said. "The second thing that we were looking for was personalities that we thought would mesh with these particular schools.

"We also wanted (them to have) some familiarity with community resources. We matched the personalities with what we felt like the school needed and also we made sure that the principal was going to feel comfortable."

Veda McNair, retired principal who last worked at Eastern Wayne Elementary School, will be at Spring Creek Middle. Celia James, retired principal who last worked at Meadow Lane Elementary, is assigned to Grantham School. Mary Ann Barwick, a retired art teacher from Southern Wayne, is now at Mount Olive Middle. And Elvira Carreno, who completed her school work program this past spring at Brogden Middle, returns there as a success coach.

The coaches will work closely with administration and staff, as well as a target of 10 percent of the school students, said Mrs. Bennett.

"These success coaches don't just work with kids that you would typically think of as troubled kids," she explained. "Maybe for a different reason -- maybe it's the child that needs an additional or a different kind of support because they're a quiet, shy kid or don't have the resources at home to know how to apply for college. Children that are at-risk can be at-risk for a number of different reasons."

Even Barbara Wilkins, graduation coach at Goldsboro High, will focus on a younger demographic of students this year, expanding to 9th and 10th graders, Mrs. Bennett said.

"These (coaches) will be offering both Level 1 and Level 2 services -- Level 1 means offering speakers, career fairs, services that the entire school population can benefit from, and Level 2, these are the kids that we track and measure outcomes," she said.

Nevin Daryana, field service representative from CIS NC, helped lead the coaches training last week. He said the concept -- which has been called anything from graduation or success coaches to site coordinators -- has been in North Carolina for about 25 years. Last year, it was offered at 488 sites in 37 counties around the state.

"One of the biggest successes I have seen when I started 10 years ago, the graduation rate was 67 percent. The latest number is 80.2 percent," he said. "I think we're paying better attention to our students and our students that are at-risk.

"The other thing I would say is a benefit is the dropout rate is lower than it's ever been in North Carolina because we have been tracking it."

Mrs. McNair said she is looking forward to the prospects of stepping out of an administrative role and being able to work with students in a more personal capacity.

"I'm excited to work with children who are just the next step up and affect change with them, to prepare them for the next level," she said. "This will really give me an opportunity to focus on student needs and help them reach their potential."