Plans in place to combat trouble spots

May. 24, 2014 @ 04:15 PM

A recent report on North Carolina school systems shows Vance County Schools have improved their dropout rate and suffered increases in crime-related incidents and short-term suspensions.

The consolidated data report released by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction analyzes districts statewide. Data was reported for each metric individually and does not draw a conclusion of correlation.

Ralphel Holloman, the dropout prevention coordinator for the school system, and Terri Hedrick, the public information officer for the school system, explained in email messages what measures are being taken to improve the numbers.

The system has an active plan to combat dropouts, adheres to policies with regard to suspensions and is hopeful of an alternative program to suspensions in 2014-15. Community involvement, wrote Holloman and Hedrick, is necessary for the school system to improve in all areas.

“Vance County Schools receive their students from communities within the county and they are not bussed in from other areas of the state,” Holloman wrote. “Therefore, we get what is a reflection of the dynamics of the community, family and extended family.”

Holloman wrote the problem goes beyond the school system, which should not be left to solve it alone. He wrote solutions should come with “the collaboration and partnership of parents, churches, ministers, businesses and local government officials.”

Hedrick wrote, “A key to reducing the dropout and suspension rates is keeping our students at all grade levels engaged in positive activities and programs after school, on weekends and during the summer. We need to develop these activities and programs not just in school, but in the community.”

Vance County had 102 dropouts for the 2012-13 academic year, the most recent reported. Sixty percent were male and 51 percent were black.

While Vance County improved from 5.7 percent to 4.67 percent in its dropout rate, it remains among the state’s highest.

The school system’s 2013 Annual Action Plan was developed by Holloman, Superintendent Ronald Gregory and social workers and data managers hired by the school system to design recovery efforts.

Their plan was based on the National Dropout Prevention Center’s 15 strategies to address dropouts. The plan included techniques for administering after school activities, mentoring and tutoring, career and technology education and increased family engagement.

According to Holloman, the goal was to reduce the dropout rate to the state average over a five-year period and find out why students drop out.

Programs and activities are being developed by Holloman to concentrate on prevention and encourage students to come to school, according to his email. His plans include:

• creation of liaison social workers to keep parents informed on their students’ attendance status.

• “Champions For Children,” a program to pay for promotion of middle and elementary school students’ perfect attendance in the first half of the school year.

• Continued use of the Juvenile Attendance Council, a panel addressing parents with low-attending students as the final step before court action is taken regarding student absenteeism.

• A curriculum that educates on bullying and gang activity in middle and high school.

The school system has developed three methods to address the dropout rates within different demographics.

• Alternative schooling, such as the creation of the Transition Academy that caters to potential dropouts.

• Mentoring and Tutoring, such as the Check and Connect Mentoring program involving Western Vance students.

• Career and Technology education, such as the Fire and Emergency Academy and the can academic for vocational training.

Crime-related incidents increased 27 percent from the 2011-12 year, according to the report. Holloman pointed out there had been no violent crimes, no shootings and no lockdowns. There also had not been a sexual assault reported in two consecutive years.

Holloman’s email confirms changes in the reporting process helped discontinue counting some students twice in suspensions. Vance County’s rate is 54.8 percent per 100 students, which is still up 4.2 percent over the previous year.

Vance County had more than 1,000 short-term suspensions and less than five long-term suspensions. Hedrick pointed out the number is for suspensions and not number of students, with some students having been suspended multiple times.

“Such programs as after-school detention, early school detention, Saturday Academies all have shown evidence of being effective when funds are available to make them sustainable for the results to be noticeable,” Holloman wrote. “An alternative to the suspension program is being looked at and hopefully implemented in the 2014-2015 school year.”

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.