Communities in Schools celebrates new year, new opportunities

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 21, 2018

SALISBURY — Supporters of Communities in Schools of Rowan County met Monday morning to celebrate the start of a new year.

Communities in Schools, a national dropout prevention program, focuses on providing students with resources, tutoring and mentors. It’s an organization that runs on volunteers.

“This is a very generous community,” Executive Director Ron Turbyfill said. “With funds, but also with time. … It shows young people that this community cares about them. It shows that in a very real way.”

Communities in Schools serves Hanford Dole Elementary, Hurley Elementary, Isenberg Elementary, Koontz Elementary, North Rowan Elementary, Overton Elementary, Knox Middle School, North Rowan Middle and Henderson Independent High School.

According to the organization, more than 88 percent of students involved in the program during the 2017-18 school year showed an improvement in attendance, 70.1 percent showed improved behavior, and 91.9 percent showed improvement in course work. About 97 percent were promoted to the next grade.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ move to become a renewal district — one with charter-like flexibilities — presents some advantages and challenges to local schools, but it is an exciting time, Turbyfill said.

North Rowan High School Principal Meredith Williams talked about the changes her school has already put in place. It was nominated as a restart school last year, allowing it to take advantage of flexibilities before other schools in the district.

“It is an important and significant time for our school system,” Williams said.

It also represents a chance to tailor education to each child and his chosen future. Williams explained that society and jobs have become highly personalized, yet education has remained unchanged for more than a century.

“We have the opportunity to personalize our experiences almost to the nth degree,” Williams said.

Yet many schools still teach children that there is only one correct answer. It’s a school of thought that just isn’t practical in today’s job market, where employees are asked to think critically and creatively to solve myriad different problems, Williams said.

To help change that, North Rowan High School has launched a curriculum emphasizing experiences and trying new things.

“We are working to set up a system that helps students find (their) passion,” Williams said.

The school also partners closely with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, allowing students to enroll in the College and Career Promise Program, which lets high school students take courses free of charge. Conceivably, a student could earn a certification and land a job by the time he graduates.

Turbyfill said programs like the one at North Rowan High School present new opportunities, and he encouraged the community to keep pushing forward.

“There is so much going on,” he said. “And so much of this is brand new. … My challenge to you is that we not give up.”

For more information about Communities in Schools, visit

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.