NCSS seeks to know more about poverty

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAN­DRA BRANDS sbrands@cov­news.com

It’s not just the poor who are af­fected by poverty. It’s the en­tire com­mu­nity.

That’s why the schools needs to be more poverty-in­formed, ac­cord­ing to Craig Lock­hart, New­ton County School Sys­tem Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent.,

“We are at the point where we’ve done a lot of aca­demic things, but we feel we can’t move for­ward with­out ad­dress­ing poverty,” he said.

Lock­hart and Su­per­in­ten­dent Sa­man­tha Fuhrey have been work­ing on an ini­tia­tive

to ad­dress poverty in the schools dis­trict-wide.

“We need to be more poverty in­formed,” Lock­hart said.

School dis­trict lead­ers, in­clud­ing Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­bers, have vis­ited com­mu­ni­ties, trans­porta­tion is­sues and food deserts — ar­eas where ac­cess to fresh pro­duce, dairy and meats is lim­ited or nonex­is­tent. “We’re try­ing to be aware of what im­pacts our school as far as poverty.”

“We’re look­ing at tak­ing the lead,” Fuhrey said. Peo­ple who have ex­pressed in­ter­est in ad­dress­ing is­sues as­so­ci­ated with sit­u­a­tional or gen­er­a­tional poverty have been in­vited to part­ner “As a school sys­tem, we’ve gone a bit fur­ther at [how] the im­pact poverty has had on our stu­dents’ abil­ity to per­form at their peak.” BUILD­ING PART­NER­SHIPS

“We feel like you learn more ev­ery time you en­gage in the di­a­logue,” Fuhrey said. She said she hoped New­ton County could be a pover­ty­in­formed com­mu­nity, with struc­tures set up that pool all re­sources in the com­mu­nity.

That in­cludes build­ing part­ner­ships with gov­ern­ment, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions and the faith and busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties. It’s one of the things Laura Be­tram, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of New­ton County Com­mu­nity Part­ner­ship, be­lieves is vi­tal in an era of do­ing more with less.

“Our fo­cus is to get the best bang for our buck,” Be­tram said. “We’re a poor com­mu­nity. We know what works in low in­come neigh­bor­hoods. What peo­ple don’t need is an­other in­for­ma­tional book­let. What they need is some­one to walk be­side them.

“We have lots of lit­tle or­ga­ni­za­tions do­ing good things, but if our goal is to have all stu­dents grad­u­ate from high school on time with the skills they need to have to be suc­cess­ful, we have to get bet­ter,” she said, adding that when the com­mu­nity fo­cus is on the needs and de­sires of a group, work­ing with them to help them im­prove the qual­ity of life, those helped train their chil­dren, their friends and their neigh­bors, help­ing them im­prove their lives.”

Be­tram said she has worked with fo­cus groups in low-in­come ar­eas. “In ev­ery one of the fo­cus groups, at least one per­son says they want a bet­ter for their child then they have them­selves,” she said. “What we need to do is model the right be­hav­iors and con­nect them with re­sources.” BE­ING POVER­TY­IN­FORMED

Be­tram, Fuhrey and Lock­hart have all trained with Donna Bee­gle, Ed.D., au­thor of “See Poverty, Be The Dif­fer­ence,” and “An Ac­tion Ap­proach to Ed­u­cat­ing Stu­dents Who Live in the Cri­sis of Poverty.” She is the pres­i­dent of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Across Bar­ri­ers and the founder of The Poverty Bridge Project.

Bee­gle, Lock­hart said “is very so­lu­tion ori­ented. We can all iden­tify the prob­lem, but we all get stuck on what to do next.”

Fuhrey said in her 25 years of ed­u­ca­tion, she has never heard of any­one who had a strat­egy for the so­lu­tion. “The rea­son I’m so ex­cited is there might be a way to change the lives of 70 per­cent of the chil­dren and those com­mu­nity mem­bers who are im­pacted by poverty.”

Be­tram said Bee­gle’s train­ing looks at why peo­ple live in poverty and what can be done to con­nect them with re­sources and help. She said peo­ple are pe­nal­ized for liv­ing in poverty. For ex­am­ple, “You can’t get to pro­ba­tion be­cause you don’t have a car, so now you have three more weeks of pro­ba­tion. You can’t get to the al­ter­na­tive schools be­cause they don’t of­fer trans­porta­tion, you get in trou­ble. BREAK­ING OUT OF SI­LOS

Fuhrey echoes Be­tram’s be­lief that every­one has to work to­gether to solve the is­sue of poverty.

“This has to be some­thing our com­mu­nity em­braces,” she said. “The is­sue of poverty can’t be solved in si­los. Every­one has to work to­gether to solve the is­sue of poverty.”

One of the shared goals of the cities, the county, the Cham­ber of Com­merce and NCSS is at­tract­ing and ed­u­cat­ing a work­force that lives in New­ton County to at­tract busi­nesses and man­u­fac­tur­ers. “We need to help the Cham­ber and the may­ors gen­er­ate enough in­ter­est peo­ple bring their com­pa­nies here. We need them, they need us,” Fuhrey said.

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