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Rosman, N.C. develops rural 'Cities in Schools' model.

Good workforce skills start in the classroom where children first form work habits. Transylvania County in North Carolina is one of a growing number of rural areas taking a serious look at the school's role in shaping the workforce and at ways to keep kids in school through graduation.

The two main industries in the area, Acousta (a paper company) and Dupont, employ many unskilled workers; however, county leaders say the low skill levels of the workforce discourage high tech industries from locating in the area.

Transylvania County, population 25,520, is also coping with other problems typical of rural areas - poverty, illiteracy and a scattered system of social services that are difficult to access. Programs are spread widely across the rural terrain - which works against serving the needs of families, the unemployed, and the unskilled. Programs are generally not centralized and people are not guided to all possible avenues of help.

Transylvania County is taking action to address both problems - education's role in dealing with workforce problems and making needed human services more accessible to families - by developing a rural model of the successful Cities in Schools national program. Through their Communities in Schools (CIS) program their goal is to reduce the number of students who drop out of school in the county.

What is Cities in Schools?

Cities in Schools is designed to address issues underlying the dropout phenomenon, including what happens outside the classroom.

The program brings representatives from private businesses, social service agencies, human resource systems, and volunteer groups into the schools to help at-risk students and their families. Cities in Schools centralizes services and eliminates the problem of families having to navigate a maze of bureaucratic and often overlapping service delivery systems.

How it began:

Transylvania County's Communities In Schools program is the blooming of a seed planted in the community of Rosman, NC, population 385.

Rosman Elementary School principal Dawson Hogsed sat down with faculty and asked, "If you could change anything in education, what would it be?" The result of this brainstorming session was a list of strategies for motivating and increasing the self-esteem of at- risk students through individually tailored curricula and through increased parental involvement.

Rosman Elementary then set forth a plan, including a proposed CIS program, and applied for an RJR Nabisco Next Century School grant. The corporation awarded 15 such grants to risk-taking education programs.

In 1990, RJR Nabisco awarded Rosman Elementary School a three-year grant of $750,000 to implement their CIS program and to replicate it throughout the county.

Since they won the grant, Rosman Elementary School has put almost all proposed program components into action. (See Box.) In 1991, Transylvania County Communities in Schools, Inc., was formed to incorporate the program into all schools in the county.


Transylvania County is beginning to see the fruits of their project. Many Rosman Elementary students are performing better on standardized tests. Last year, students who took state exams had better scores overall in writing and reading.

The Rosman CIS project includes programs for in-school teens, and, as a result, the dropout rate is already improving. When the project was initiated, the dropout rate was 12.1 percent. Last year, the dropout rate was down to 7.2 percent, and some students who had dropped out were coming back to finish school.

Local elected officials:

Rosman educators say local elected officials have played a key role in advising the project and in helping procure funds through the project's Board of Directors. As RJR Nabisco funding concludes, elected officials will become even more pivotal when, as board members, they take over primary responsibility for fundraising.

Board members have also served as disseminators of information, both to potential funding sources and to other regions about the project. Local elected officials on the board include Katherine Anderson, mayor of Brevard, William Cathey III, mayor of Rosman, school board members, and county commissioners.

A rural model for reducing drop-out rate

Transylvania County strives to keep students in school through its Communities in Schools program (CIS). CIS tailors curricula to the child's individual needs and brings community support services into the school for both the children and their families.

Rosman Elementary School's CIS, the pilot for the county-wide program, targets both student and family learning. Rosman CIS actions to improve student learning include: Identifying high-risk students and developing individual learning plans; improving student writing skills with the help of a writing consultant; using computers to assist all types of learning; bringing science and math alive through a hands-on lab; providing students with role models from high schools, colleges and community leaders; constructing a Children's Theater; setting up a telephone hotline to answer homework questions; and teaching life skills to students.

Rosman CIS actions to improve family learning include: providing parenting classes and a resource library in the school; centralizing community services and guiding families through the maze of delivery system; educating parents through GED programs and continuing education classes; and keeping teen parents in school with prenatal and parenting classes, and high school program tailored for their needs.

When students drop out, society does not escape the consequences. Nationally, each high school dropout reduces our gross national product (GNP) by a lifetime total of $228,000.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Cities in Schools: Turning Kids Around; includes related information on drop-out rate reduction; Special Report
Author:McGraw, Colleen
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 24, 1992
Previous Article:NLC project explores ways to build rural workforce.
Next Article:Development strategies for small towns.

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