By Melissa Toothman
With a recently awarded Innovation Zone Drop-out Prevention Grant in the amount of $300,000, Upshur County Schools officials plan to brighten school climates and dry up the dropout rate.
Goals of the grant are to make improvements at both Buckhannon-Upshur High School and Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School to increase graduation rate by 2 percent each year, officials said.
Only seven of the grants were awarded in the state, and the grant will support a broad range of activities, said Renee Warner, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School principal.
"That's pretty exciting," Warner said. "I'm thrilled to be able to receive this funding."
The funds will be awarded over the next three years, and the bulk of the funding will support the three-year employment term of a new "meteorologist," a term coined to fit the weather theme created by grant writers. The main goal of that employee will be to strengthen the school atmosphere and increase graduation rates for the county.
"That meteorologist will really be a dropout prevention coordinator," said Warner.
The job holder would bring in special speakers and programs; create incentives for student attendance; focus on staff development; review activities in the schools; and work with dropout prevention forums like the upcoming Destination Graduation forum scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Buckhannon.
Warner said the person hired also would highlight student achievement and attendance; develop and nurture school partnerships; create new partnerships; conduct school climate surveys; monitor student and staff morale; recognize at-risk behavior; manage classroom "climate"; and assess school data in the areas of attendance, behavior and course failure. All three areas can indicate a dropout risk.
"We'd like this person to be energetic and positive and able to spend the time doing the things that we'd really like to plan for our schools, but we just don't feel like we have the hours in the day to put into it," Warner said, adding that she hopes the job holder will plan quarterly events at each school.
The grant committee will meet today to officially determine the job description. The new job could be filled by November. Salary for the position would just under $67,000, which includes benefits and insurance.
"We're ready to jump on this right away," Warner said, adding that the first phase of the grant funding will be arriving soon and another phase will arrive in April.
Warner told the Upshur County Board of Education last week that several dropout prevention programs are already in place from elementary to high schools.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.