Originally created 01/12/00

New program helps families learn



ALLENDALE, S.C. -- The state Department of Education might have found a way to fuse family learning and fun while heightening academics in Allendale County.

Westinghouse Savannah River Co. has fronted the money to help make it possible.

Its corporate donation of $50,000 on Tuesday will underwrite a new education program aimed at helping adults hone job-searching skills. The money also allows the county seat to open a family learning center, where parents can learn computer, technical and literacy skills and improve study habits. Children can get extra help with math and reading.

Participants also will learn how to fill out a job application and prepare for an interview. School officials say there already is a waiting list of 100 people who want to enroll in Allendale County's Family Learning Center.

"This partnership is definitely about more than just money," said Joe Buggy, president of Westinghouse Savannah River Co. "Westinghouse has given and will continue to commit other resources, such as time and expertise from our scientists."

Tuesday's donation is the latest effort from Westinghouse to help advance Allendale's schools. Last month, the company helped the county get $800,000 in technology grants, and it has established a weather center at the middle school.

By a unanimous vote, the state Board of Education in July authorized state Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum's office to assume management of Allendale County schools. The action marked the first time in South Carolina history that the state has intervened to manage a local school system.

One month later, the superintendent promised sweeping education reforms for the county that for three years has received technical assistance from the state. As a district in greatest need, it qualified for master teachers, workshops and special funding.

Included in her salvage plans was a pledge to enlist support and technical assistance from high-profile companies such as Westinghouse, BellSouth and Colonial Life.

District Superintendent John Tindal said Tuesday that the Family Learning Center will be a tremendous asset, and he's anticipating many positive results from its use -- some of the same results that Georgia school officials have witnessed.

The first center of this kind opened just more than two years ago in DeKalb County. School officials there say that of the adults who graduate from their center, 39 percent have been promoted, and an additional 65 percent have received pay raises.

Anyone interested in enrolling in the Allendale County Family Learning Center can call Virginia McCormick at (803) 584-3489. Participation is free. The center is at Allendale-Fairfax Middle School and is open weekdays from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.