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Collaboration yields $7 million investment in Middle Grades

Earlier this week, the United Way of Greenville County, Greenville School District, and the Riley Institute announced that Greenville students will be the beneficiaries of a $7 million collaborative partnership aimed at Middle Schoolers in an effort to reduce our dropout rate.


School Board Trustee Glenda Morrison Fair explained the need: Middle School is a time for students to explore their strengths and to start thinking about their future. But, it is also a time when too many students start to disengage and dropout.


School Superintendent Burke Royster echoed these comments: Students don’t dropout out of school at 16 (the legal dropout age), they checkout at 12 or 13 and bide their time until they drop out. Middle School is a crucial time, and we need to work with our community partners to make sure teens and their families have the supports they need to remain engaged in schools.


Recognizing the urgency of accomplishing this work, the United Way Education Council sought collaborative partnerships with the School District, Riley Institute and community partners on a national grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The United Way applied for a $7 million grant (matched with local private funds) to create a $15 million 3 year pilot in Lakeview Middle, Tanglewood Middle, Berea Middle, and the Early College (four schools with the highest number of potential droupouts). They were selected as one of seven recipients nationwide!


Supt. Royster also repeated a pledge I have made throughout the campaign: “Our schools cannot do this work alone. Students spend a small % of their time with us in schools. The work of engaging teens cannot be left to a single teacher, a single school. It requires everyone, including parents, nonprofits, churches, and neighbors to achieve this kind of change”.


What is exciting about this program is that the School District, in partnership with the Riley Institute will be studying what works, what needs to be strengthened and retooled, and examining how we can replicate this pilot. Don Gordon with the Riley Institute explains: We will conduct rigorous data assessment on each of the program components so we can share what works across the state.


I am proud of the work I have done with the United Way Education Council, to help us identify collaborative opportunities like this. We worked for over two years to develop a Roadmap for Community Success that identified Middle School Engagement as one of the core components of a vibrant learning community. I credit leadership within these organizations for working to build this collaborative model and look forward to learning from the work. As a school board member my first and most important priority will be to continue to seek ways to strengthen these types of collaborative efforts. Our schools are working to address critical needs within our community, and through collaborations, transparency, and community engagement we can address these tasks and improve outcomes for students and families.


You can learn more online at the Greenville News


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