Schools focuses on the development of students’ skills, beliefs, and desire to make a positive contribution and impact on their communities. Through extensive community partnerships and instructional programming, it is the mission of Cabell County Schools that every graduate be prepared for a career, to enter the military, or to continue their education at the post-secondary level.
The Communities In Schools (CIS) project is perfectly aligned to the district’s mission and vision to see every student feel safe, valued, and prepared for the future as they create their own stories. Now in its fifth year in Cabell County, CIS serves five schools including three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.
Each of the five CIS Site Coordinators have developed tiered supports designed to meet the unique needs of students and align with each school’s strategic plan in a way that is both innovative and intentional. During a typical year, CIS serves approximately 1,300 students in Cabell County, of which nearly 200 are case-managed. The percentage of those students promoted is 85.5%, while 100% of the students who have been served by CIS have earned a diploma. Of seniors served by CIS and surveyed about post-secondary plans, 50% have expressed an interest in pursuing a certificate, 25% have stated they will enter the workforce, and the remaining 25% plan to enter college.
Communities In Schools Site Facilitators are able to serve students within three tiers of support based upon each student’s individual needs. Common tier one supports offered to all students include expanded access to food, clothing, and hygiene items through the schools’ pantries, food boxes and gifts for families at the holidays, and positive behavior interventions and supports.
The reach of Cabell County’s CIS program has been greatly expanded by the creation of the virtual pantry, made possible by generous donations from Ball Toyota and Advantage Toyota. With these additional funds, schools are now able to purchase items to meet specific student needs in a way that was not possible before.
At Huntington East Middle School, Site Coordinator BJ Roberts ensures students are enjoying quarterly field trips as rewards for faithful attendance, hard work in class, and behavior that encourages learning and teamwork. In addition to being a fun reward for a job well done, these trips are also great team-building exercises for students as they have fun and learn more together.
Students at Guyandotte Elementary are also participating in a positive behavior program known as the “Be Kind” program which features a different positive character trait each month. During their small group and class sessions focused on social and emotional learning, Site Coordinator Megan Woods helps students learn more about the actions and decisions that show good character and find ways to use them in their daily interactions.
Positive behavior blends with financial lessons at Central City as students learn to budget and spend the “cougar cash” they earn from positive behaviors at the school store. Site Coordinator Clara Gray says saving up for monthly trips to the store keeps attendance, behavior and hard work top of mind for students as they endeavor to earn trinkets and toys.
Spring Hill blends tier one and tier three supports by appointing students that reach their attendance goals as “co-teachers” or “co-counselors” for the day during their classroom social and emotional growth lessons. They love being able to lead their friends and peers through lessons focused on anger management, anxiety and utilizing coping skills when feeling big emotions. These lessons utilize games, discussions, reading, art, and journaling and our student “co-teachers” are quick to help their friends through the process.
In addition to innovating within their own schools, Cabell County’s CIS Site Coordinators have been collaborating with their feeder schools to develop community-wide resource fairs. The first of these events took place in December 2022, and planning is underway for the second round of events to occur in April 2023.
Students receiving tier two supports often meet in small groups with the CIS Site Coordinators and participate in programs aimed at enhancing social skills, encouraging attendance, supporting coursework and building relationships.
At Huntington High, these tier two supports are enhanced through a partnership with Harmony House, a local non-profit dedicated to ending homelessness. Through this partnership students have a place to spend time, learn life skills and build relationships.
Central City’s students have an opportunity to serve in the student leadership group to set examples of positive behaviors and relationships. These students educate their peers on conflict management, being a friend and behaviors that lead to academic success.
Students receiving tier three supports have one-on-one check-ins with our Site Coordinators to address their specific needs. Spring Hill Site Coordinator Sarah Smith identified a need for alarm clocks for several of her fourth and fifth grade students. When asking about barriers to attendance, many expressed that if they had a way to get themselves and their siblings up on time for school, they would have an easier time with attendance. Miss Sarah made short work of getting them those resources.
At Huntington East Middle, tier three supports sometimes involve helping families with basic needs like weekly grocery deliveries and offering financial assistance for utilities and clothing. Whether serving students with tangible or intangible resources, CIS Site Coordinator BJ Roberts has become a go-to for students and their families.
Similarly, at Huntington High Site Coordinator Josh Nelson helps students stay on track for graduation by connecting students with the attendance specialist and graduation coach, checking their course credits, and helping them develop coping skills through work with our social workers and Prestera Behavioral Health.
Cabell County Schools wishes to thank our CIS Site Coordinators, school administrators, local community partners, as well as the West Virginia CIS staff for their continued support of the CIS program and our mission to serve our students and families.
Written By: Dr. Ashley Stephens, Family & Community Engagement Coordinator, Cabell County Schools with contributions from Cabell County CIS Site Coordinators and Jedd Flowers, Director of Communications