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Education partnership

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By Todd Cohen

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Better preparing students for college and jobs is the focus of a new initiative in the Cumberland County Schools supported by the Fayetteville Public Works Commission.

The commission, a public utility that oversees the city’s electricity, water and sanitary sewer systems, will provide financial support over three years for two programs that aim to ensure that local scores on standardized tests meet or exceed national averages, and that more students take the tests.

The new “Bright Futures” initiative, to which the commission expects to contribute $30,000 the first year and $15,000 to $20,000 each of the following two years, will include a college-prep program and an SAT-prep program.

The college-prep program, known as AVID, or “Advancement Via Individual Determination,” targets students at E.E. Smith High School with the potential to go to college, particularly those who would be the first in their families to go to college, or are low-income, historically underserved in four-year colleges or face special circumstances such as having lost both parents, says George Ellis, executive director of high schools for Cumberland County Schools

The SAT-prep program, to be provided by Joseph Aicher, a retired education professor at N.C. Central University in Durham, will target 1,000 students at the county’s high schools.

“The indications we’re getting are that qualified staff is going to be harder and harder to get over time,” says Steve Blanchard, CEO and general manager of the Public Works Commission, which employs 540 people and has staff turnover of 5 percent to 6 percent a year. “We want to make sure that the people coming out of school have the qualifications we want to see.”

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