Connecting schools, community

By Todd Cohen

Gearing all students in five Triangle public-school systems to graduate and go to college or work depends on strengthening the connections between school and community, says the head of a $2.5 million corporate effort to improve the schools.

That means better connecting schools to businesses and social-service agencies, providing more support for students’ families, and helping teachers and staff in individual schools and throughout the region learn from one another, says Vann Langston, executive director of High Five, a partnership backed by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, Capitol Broadcasting Co., The News & Observer, Progress Energy and SAS Institute.

With each partner organization contributing $100,000 a year for five years, High Five aims to build the “capacity” of schools in Wake, Durham, Orange and Johnston counties, and in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district, says Langston, a former high school principal and administrator for the Wake and Johnston schools and state Department of Public Instruction.

Types of projects the partnership might undertake, he says, include staff development; conferences to promote “best practices” in schools; building a “learning community” among principals and assistant principals; developing networks among teachers throughout the five districts who work in the same academic subject areas; proving the way communities support families and schools; and strengthening communication between schools, businesses and social-service agencies,

The partnership also plans to play a role in shaping policy on issues such as course content and processes for granting academic credit and for moving students from public schools to community colleges.

“We will do what we can to improve the climate in which teachers and students operate,” Langston says. “Our job is to add resources to the five school districts in ways that lead to improvement in the districts.”

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