Coaches report program success

Their official title is graduation coach.


However, the 11 people who hold these jobs in the Columbia County school system also serve as cheerleaders, administrative assistants and, in some cases, surrogate parents.

"Our job is very multi-faceted. It's not routine," Terri Duncan, the Greenbrier High School graduation coach, told the school board at its meeting Tuesday.

Ms. Duncan and Sandra Thompson, the Riverside Middle School graduation coach, updated administrators on the statewide initiative that was launched last year to keep at-risk students on track for graduation.

The district hired graduation coaches at its four high schools last year and put seven more at its middle schools this year.

"One of our main priorities this year is to identify the freshmen. If we can catch those kids early, we can keep those kids from getting behind," Ms. Duncan said.

She said all of the high school graduation coaches have had "success stories."

She met with one of her success stories, Britney Wesby, 17, Thursday, to discuss a U.S. history class project. Ms. Duncan said Britney had all As and Bs "for the first time in her life" on her latest progress report.

Britney, who will have enough credits to become a senior in January and hopes to enlist in the Navy after she graduates, was excited -- and appreciative of Ms. Duncan's efforts.

"If it wasn't for her, I probably would have other things on my mind," she said. "Ms. Duncan really put it on me, man. She really put her foot down."

Ms. Duncan told the board that their duties sometimes fall outside of academics. They also have intervened with teen moms and teenagers who are threatening to commit suicide.

"We have to be very creative in dealing with our students," she said.

Ms. Thompson said the middle school graduation coaches are providing "layers of assistance" to their pupils.

The middle school program includes relationship building with students, parents and teachers; finding and implementing tools to target student needs; developing small group programs for tutoring, mentoring, study skills development and goal setting; and forming large group programs about career information, high school readiness and transitions.

"We have diligently been meeting with and identifying our at-risk kids," said Ms. Thompson.

The middle school coaches also are developing transition programs for upcoming sixth- and outgoing eighth-graders, she said.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or