Board to re-establish Communities in Schools
by Rebecca Leftwich
Communities In Schools has helped prevent thousands of students nationwide from dropping out, meeting needs that can have little to do with academics.
A group of local volunteers is working to re-establish the program – which went dormant after the 2010 death of executive director Bonnie Garrison – in the Coweta County School System. Largely through the efforts of Central Educational Center CEO Mark Whitlock, CIS has maintained all necessary paperwork as well as its 501(c)3 status in Coweta County, leaving open the door for re-implementation of student services.
“We deserve to have this back in the community,” said Kristy Lilly of Southern Company, who along with Lisa Smith of Georgia Power, Arthur “Skin” Edge of GeorgiaLink and Carole Ann Fields of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce are serving on a newly formed board of directors.
Lilly and Smith joined Georgia Communities In Schools Community Development Specialist Nancy Stone at the March meeting of the Coweta County Board of Education. The trio outlined plans to recruit 11 additional community leaders to serve on the board, identify funding and begin the process of hiring an executive director and a site coordinator.
Communities In Schools advocates have spent nine months studying the feasibility of re-establishing the program, Lilly said, and laying groundwork which will allow CIS to begin serving Coweta students at some point during the 2013-14 school year.
A comprehensive resource assessment of Coweta County also is being conducted by Leadership Coweta’s Education Team, which includes Brad Binion of Newnan Utilities, Anna Ivory of Piedmont-Newnan Hospital, Wanda Norris of Coweta Water & Sewerage and Garnet Reynolds of BB&T.
Coweta Schools Superintendent Steve Barker has expressed his full support for the project.
“Communities In Schools is truly one of the purest forms of community partnership,” Barker said. “It will be a great addition to our school system.”
CIS helps counter challenges and risk factors which can be barriers to student success, Stone said.
“A lot of kids walk into a school building with issues that have nothing to do with education,” she said. “We are able to wrap all partners and community resources around and support that child.”
Dropout rates and behavioral referrals decrease while attendance and academics improve for students whose risk factors are identified and addressed through CIS, according to Stone, who emphasized the importance of appointing a strong board with resource development as its main directive.
Barker said he is working to identify an appropriate school setting for the Communities In Schools site coordinator.
“We have a lot of interested principals,” he said. “This is a great resource and a very committed group, and we’re looking forward to this partnership.”