by Victor Lopez
ECTOR COUNTY - Communities in Schools will be forced to operate without close to $170,000 from ECISD due to budget cuts. The drop out prevention program was told recently they won't be funded for the 2011, 2012 school year.
They are now reaching out to the community to help pick up the slack. Without the program, hundreds of students could be at even greater risk of not graduating.
Communities in Schools does get funding from sources other than the school districts they serve. But by not getting that money from ECISD, it will be harder for them to keep that program in motion on four junior high and two high school campuses.
"We're just looking for, not only dollars, but volunteers that want to get involved in this very important drop out prevention program that we have here," said Executive Director, Dawn Parnell.
Since 1999, Communities in Schools has worked with at risk students in the Permian Basin, keeping them in school and making sure they graduate.
"Many of our students need assistance in either academics, attendance or behavior. We identify them at the beginning of the school year then develop a plan to work with them throughout the course of the year, to help them see improvements in those three primary areas," Parnell explained.
A degreed, trained coordinator can be found on the junior high campuses of Bonham, Hood, Ector and Crockett, as well as Permian High and OHS. Many of the students need help in areas other than school.
According to Parnell, "Many of our students come to school and they need social services, anything from clothes to food. So, with us not being there, that's definitely going to hurt the services that our students receive."
But, Parnell added, it's not just the kids that will feel the negative effects.
"Families look to us for assistance in academics and attendance. So, us not being there is going to put those students, that are already most vulnerable, even more at risk. Also, our staff, we'll have lay offs, as well," Parnell said.
Now, Communities in Schools is looking for other sources of funding from donations from businesses and individuals and even their annual fundraiser, coming up in April.
"We'll be giving an update on our program, what we've done in the past year to help students in the Permian Basin," Parnell said.
What did they do?
Last school year, 98 percent of their students stayed in school and 82 percent were promoted to the next grade.
Parnell says, that's a lot better than what could happen.
"We're going to see a decrease, probably, in the number of graduates in our area as well as attendance will go down, more behavioral issues."
The funding cut is only for next year. Communities in Schools will have to wait to see what comes down the road.
"We consider ECISD to be a very good partner. We have a good relationship with them. We're continuing to negotiate and we'll see how every thing transpires in the summer," Parnell commented.