Grad coaches inspire success

COVINGTON - With the end of the school year approaching in a few months, graduation coaches - both at the middle and high school levels - are busy making sure students are caught up on their school work and on track to graduate.

At the middle school level, coaches have already held meetings with eighth-grade students and parents to help them prepare for their transition to high school; and both middle and high school graduation coaches are meeting every day with students who could be at risk for getting behind in school work or not graduating on time.

"Two years ago, the Georgia legislature implemented graduation coaches at a high school level who were meant to be an extra advocate for students," said Adria Griffin, director of middle school curriculum for the Newton County School System during a presentation to the board at is last meeting. "It went so well the first year that Governor (Sonny) Perdue recommended graduation coaches be at the middle school level, as well. These coaches have a chance to reach out and help these students."

She said the mission of school graduation coaches is to assist the school and community with a "stay-in-school program" that encourages students to remain in school until at least high school.

"(The program will) prepare (students) for post secondary schools, where they are able to take their place in the work force and in their communities," Griffin said. "The coaches work directly with the principal, teachers, students and parents to make sure they graduate from high school."

The coaches, under a four-step process, understand school population and current resources, identify potentially at-risk students, analyze data and look for areas of need and develop a graduation work plan, according to the presentation.

"(The coaches) do focus on all students ... to develop transition plans; they don't work with just at-risk students because all students are at risk," Griffin said. "They are required by the (Georgia Department of Education) to maintain a database ... so the DOE can collect data to make sure the program is a success."

Griffin said the school system is looking for community programs, like Georgia College 411 and area technical colleges, and is working to develop local mentoring programs and to recruit community coaches to help students, especially in their transition years between middle and high school and high school and college.

Anyone interested in becoming a community coach should call Laura Bertram, program director of the Newton County Community Partnership, at 770-786-0807.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Graduation coaches for area schools:

· Clements Middle School - Mark Rachels

· Cousins Middle School - Randy Jenkins

· Indian Creek Middle School - Teresa Sauls

· Veterans Memorial Middle School - Janelle Gardner

· Alcovy High School - Pamela Manigault

· Eastside High School - Kim Mistovich

· Newton High School - Colandra Taylor

· Sharp Learning Center - Josette Hall