The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 24, 2013

Groups unite to keep students in school

With dropout rates on the rise and the future of West Virginia’s skilled workforce threatened, Independence Middle School has joined with the United Way of Southern West Virginia, The Education Alliance and the Raleigh County Board of Education to sponsor a community Dropout Prevention Forum April 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Crab Orchard Baptist Church.

Independence teacher and forum coordinator Carolyn Buzbee explained that the state’s dropout crisis threatens the economic, social and democratic fabric of the community, state and nation.

“The costs of West Virginia students dropping out of high school are devastating and long lasting,” she said in a press release. “Raleigh County and its citizens cannot ignore the damaging realities associated with students not completing high school. If we do, we will not achieve success in meeting the important educational needs of our working-age adults and youth.”

The community forum will bring together members of our community in a thoughtful conversation about what can be done. A neutral moderator will lead participants in a discussion of several approaches to address the problem of dropout prevention in an atmosphere that encourages respectful sharing.

“Dropout prevention is an extremely complex issue requiring the involvement of nearly every sector of the community — business, policymakers, students, educators, state and local agencies, parents and community groups. The ultimate goal of the forum is to consider individual, organizational and community responses to the troubling incidence of students not completing high school,” said Buzbee.

This public forum is a part of a large effort to quell high school exits through Independence Middle School’s Innovation Zone and Drop-out Prevention Grant through the West Virginia Department of Education.

In January 2012, the middle school was awarded $300,000 over three years to help quell the school’s high dropout rate.

The state dropout rate was 2.7 in 2009-10 while Independence High School’s rate is 5.5 percent, which has been increasing over the past three years and more than 50 percent of the school’s students are considered economically disadvantaged.

So far the grant has been used to engage students and families in after-school enrichment programs.

This community discussion is open to all concerned citizens.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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