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Helping the whole student

Resource type: News

Odessa American Online |

Communities In Schools named top drop-prevention program

Original Source


For years, ECISD has struggled with one of the highest dropout rates in Texas, but a local program is trying to change that fact – and the work seems to be paying off.

The Texas Education Agency named one district program, Communities In Schools, among the best in the state for keeping students in school.

“For 2007-’08, 99 percent of those we had either stayed in school or graduated, pretty amazing numbers,” said Tina Holmes-Pitzer, the director of Communities In Schools of the Permian Basin. For students, the program is more fun and interesting than something only focused on drilling academics. CIS is about the whole person.

“It’s more fun,” Crockett seventh-grader Gabriela Martinez said. “We even have girls night out and boys night out trips for fun.”

CIS targets at-risk students needing extra attention and tends to educational, social and behavioral needs at existing campuses. ECISD includes CIS at Odessa High and Permian as well as three junior high schools – Crockett, Ector and Hood.

Each campus offers a variety of services. Holmes-Pitzer said schools provide tutoring services, work with college and career readiness and even address social needs of students. For example, each campus CIS coordinator can help connect families of students with resources to help in situations such as financial problems.

Serving about 110 students per campus, CIS actively case manages students considered at-risk, but others may come to experience some of the benefits like tutoring. Parents form a critical piece to the process to push their children to see why education is important, Holmes-Pitzer said.

“Getting parents involved can be a challenge, but we do show some success in pulling them in more. That is a major goal for us this year,” she said.

Permian coordinator Margie Martinez said her school includes monthly parent meetings. They will focus on TAKS coming up this semester, explaining the need to pass to graduate.

Over at OHS, coordinator Monica West said she has students learn about career and future options to tie in the reality of education and success. She meets with seniors to help with college and financial aid applications. Also, students attended a career fair last semester, getting to talk to leaders in a variety of fields. West said a main focus is direct student contact, working with students on grades and attendance and contacting parents by phone. She even keeps school supplies.

“If they see that someone cares, it makes a difference,” West said. It is the fact that the service takes place in a school building that leads Holmes-Pitzer to see CIS as unique and successful. Students see progress.

“It’s really changed my attitude and made me want to be a better person because I don’t want to let people down,” Crockett seventh-grader Brian Ramos said.


>> Academics: Tutoring, homework help.

>> Social services: Referrals to community resources, assistance with aid applications.

>> Parent involvement: Classes, visits, phone calls.

>> Career and future: Job fairs, career placement help.

>> Enrichment: After school activities, trips.

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