Local News

Area Businesses Invest In Future Of Triangle's Youth

Posted April 2, 2004

— Five major Triangle business leaders and five public school superintendents announced the creation of a unique public/private sector high school reform initiative Friday.

"High Five: Regional Partnership for High School Excellence," is the five-year, $2.5 million program announced as a first for the five major area public school systems.

The program aims to reduce the dropout rate, increase the number of graduates and better prepare students for successful lives after high school.

The program is designed to specifically support and enhance public high school performance by developing a regional approach in sharing best practices; facilitating collaboration between school districts, colleges and universities; identifying alternative delivery systems to reach at risk students; and broadening community support.

The regional partnership's funding comes from The News & Observer Publishing Company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, SAS, Progress Energy and Capitol Broadcasting Company.

The five Triangle public school systems participating in the program include: Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Durham Public Schools, Johnston County Schools, Orange County Schools and Wake County Public Schools.

The partnership has not figured out yet how to achieve its goals or what else to work on.

"It's going to be a journey of trying to understand what the structural problems are," said Bob Greczyn, of Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

"We have very specific goals for High Five – to see all high school students graduate from high school and to increase the percentage of high school graduates who meet admission standards for our colleges and universities," said Orage Quarles III, publisher of

The News & Observer

.

A 20-member coordinating council of education and business leaders will lead the consortium. A full-time director and support staff person will staff the initiative which, will help create strategies and coordinate programs across school systems to build on the current strengths at the high school level. IBM is donating office space for the initiative, which is also supported by BellSouth.

"We need high schools that work for all students," said Neil G. Pedersen, superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. "While we are competitive in reducing the number of dropouts, raising expectations for academic success and preparing our young people for life after high school, we need to take our efforts to the next level. We all believe this unique approach will help all of us reach that goal."

The dropout rates in all five school districts are below six percent. The highest is in Orange County at nearly six percent. The lowest is Chapel Hill-Carrboro City schools, which is less than one percent.

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