04/28/13 — Communities in Schools of Wayne County earns national accreditation

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Communities in Schools of Wayne County earns national accreditation

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 28, 2013 1:50 AM

Communities in Schools of Wayne County has received national accreditation and is among the first to accomplish this of the nearly 200 local affiliates in the CIS network in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

"Accreditation for us is like a child getting their high school diploma or their college diploma," said Selena Bennett, executive director of the local program. "It's an accomplishment that says for us that we have made the standards that we need to make."

Work toward the status actually began about a year and a half ago, Mrs. Bennett said. And three years from now, they will have to be reaccredited, although it is not expected to be as labor intensive the next time around, she added.

The effort involved demonstrating compliance with all CIS Total Quality System standards, which are based on a national evaluation of integrated student support services at school sites.

The accomplishment is even more impressive when realizing that every CIS agency in the state was given a time line by which to complete accreditation requirements.

"When I took this job, my first task as a new executive director was to navigate us through this process," Mrs. Bennett said. "Any agency that's not accredited by this June will lose their charter. That's how crucial it is."

The state office also assisted in the effort, which was first initiated nearly four years ago, she said. It originated from the national level, when it was announced that all agencies would be required to achieve accreditation status by June 2013. Agencies could begin working on it immediately, but all had to comply with the target deadline.

Now that the status is official, Mrs. Bennett said she is pleased that the effort paid off.

"It means that we have aligned ourselves with the best of the best," she said. "We have met the standards that have been set up for us at the national level. We met every standard without any findings and in the process of going through this accreditation, we have become more focused on how to meet the needs of the children in Wayne County Public Schools.

"If I had to take one thing away from this, it has made us stronger, it has made us better, we are more focused, more able to verbalize our mission and that's what we needed to do."

The local CIS also received commendations for some of its programming, which includes graduation coaches at two high schools and success coaches at several middle schools.

According to the report, Barbara Wilkins, success coordinator at Goldsboro High School "demonstrates the value of an integrated success coordinator who can coordinate appropriate resources for students" and has developed strong partnerships and recruited and oriented mentors for students at the school.

GHS was also cited for its partnership with the Goldsboro Fire Department, creating a "Firefighter's Academy" for students.

Mrs. Bennett said part of her role is working in a supportive capacity with the public school system. She also continues to develop partnerships with other agencies, such as Boys & Girls Club, and is in the process now of writing grants and other funding sources.

"We're looking at additional ways we can expand our services in the schools, recruiting volunteers and mentors who can come in and link with the business community so that we can prepare for these kids for the workforce," she said. "What we want to do, our primary focus is to be adding staff at the school level.

"We want to sustain the success coach at the middle school and at the high school level, where we have existing programs and we want to target at-risk elementary schools."