A representative from the United States Department of Education held a roundtable discussion with local leaders at Willsboro Central School Sept. 6 to discuss the learning needs of area children.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White visited the facility along with State Assemblywoman Teresa R. Sayward and College for Every Student President Rick Dalton.
CFES has recognized WCS as a, “School of Distinction” due to efforts in creating high levels of college awareness and raising aspirations among their students, according to a press release.
Darcey Hale spoke of her experience as a CFES community mentor.
“These students of mine were basically unmotivated,” Hale said. “One in particular said, ‘Oh, I’m just going to hang out like my Dad does. I don’t care about an education.’”
Hale said the student was awakened by the CFES program.
“He’s gone to Cobleskill University to major in diesel technology,” Hale said. “That was just beyond anything he could imagine.”
Hale said students need lots of care and encouragement.
“Every time he’d start to stumble, I’d push him again,” Hale said. “At graduation, he said, ‘I know you’re not going to get off my shoulder and if I stumble you’re going to be there to kick me.’ And I said, ‘That’s right. I will.’”
White asked how the mentors and school counselors work together. Andrea Robare answered.
“I think that the guidance counselor has a schedule that he’s working with the students,” Robare said. “We try to follow that as well in our sessions monthly. If he’s talking about, in the junior year, the PSAT, we’re following along with that, saying how important it is to take that test.”
The Department of Education’s Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow Genevieve DeBose said she wanted to hear more about how WCS students met people of different ethnic backgrounds in the CFES exchange program in New York City.
WCS Superintendent Stephen Broadwell said entrance to the exchange program was very competitive in the district.
“We quickly found out that kids are kids,” Broadwell said. “They basically just created new friends and opened up their world beyond Essex County.”
Sayward said the exchange program was an excellent opportunity.
“In the rural district that I represent—four very, very rural counties — there’s not much we can immerse them in, not much diversity,” Sayward said. “Just to have the experience of being able to meet and make friends with people from different cultures is a great experience.”
White asked what the people at the roundtable would tell the secretary of education are the greatest needs at their school.
“It could be anything from fixing No Child Left Behind to the work you do,” White said.
Don Hollingsworth said he wanted to emphasize the need for vocational schooling.
“I think the need for service industry right now is very strong and it doesn’t always mean a four-year academic degree,” Hollingsworth said. “I think the vocational end of it is getting short-changed right now.”
Hale said she it would be helpful if the school offered enrichment programs during the summer.
“Being a rural community, there is no place for the kids to go,” Hale said. “We all see them wondering the streets at night because there is nothing for them to do in Willsboro other than watching TV.”
Phyllis Klein, a member of WCS’s board of education, said students need to learn more practical knowledge.
“I don’t see them getting all the skills that they need,” Klein said. “Even simple skills, like balancing a checkbook, and things which are so basic somehow have gotten lost in our educational process.”