Tuesday’s Communities in Schools of Milledgeville/Baldwin County breakfast brought more good news than just the organization’s impact on local public schools.
CISMBC Executive Director Sandy Baxter announced that Dr. Noris Price, Baldwin County Schools superintendent, has been selected as a Communities in Schools “All In for Students Award” recipient. CIS has given such awards at the national level since 2007 to recognize CIS staff, educators, community partners, and CIS alumni who do their part in encouraging students to stay in school through graduation. Price will attend the Communities in Schools annual Leadership Town Hall in Chicago, Ill. next week where she will be honored along with this year’s other recipients.
“I’m extremely humbled to receive this award and be recognized on the national stage, but this award would not be possible without all of you,” the superintendent told those at Tuesday’s breakfast. “This award represents the hard work that is going on in this community from our teachers that are in trenches every single day, to our leaders who are leading our schools to make sure we’re providing a high-quality education, to our support staff, to our school board, to all of our Partners in Education and everyone represented here today, I represent you with this award. I am proud to be able to go to Chicago next week and represent Baldwin County on a national stage and to share the great work that is going on here.”
Baxter called the award “quite an achievement” for a school system as small as Baldwin County’s.
“Dr. Noris Price has been able to rally our entire community around the core belief that we can transform our community through the power of public education,” Baxter said in a Tuesday press release. “And it has been through her steadfast pursuit, and the coalitions she has built throughout the community, that we are closer to seeing that transformation become a reality.”
When Price came on board as Baldwin County’s school superintendent in 2014, the graduation rate stood at just 66 percent. Since then the figure has risen astronomically to 92 percent where it stood last year. The 2019 graduation rate has not been released as of yet.
One way to account for the big increase is BCSD’s persistence in following up with students who have dropped out of school. One of Price’s first directives to school social worker Ola Scott-Little was to take a list of 300 known dropouts and see what was keeping them from finishing up the requirements for their high school diplomas. Price fights for students growing up in similar situations to her own. She was raised in poverty but became the first person in her family to graduate from high school and later college.
“According to all the metrics I should not be here,” she said. “I should not be your superintendent.”
Price shared a story from her son’s childhood to illustrate a major point for why she does what she does. He came home one day as a fifth-grader with a science project — one he had not started — due the next day and did not tell his mother about it until late that night. She went out and bought the materials so they could complete the project together so it would not be late. She related it to her upbringing, saying that if she were in a similar situation she would have had to accept a failing grade because her parents could not provide that type of support.
“We have a number of children in our community that are experiencing exactly that,” Price said. “Thank goodness for Communities in Schools and all of our partners here today that we’re able to support our children so they can walk across the stage and be successful in life and have options.”
The mission continues, not just with dropouts, but with students who are unsure of their futures beyond high school. The superintendent wants them to have some sort of vision, whether it be going straight into the workforce, the military, or college, and those who don’t can expect a home visit from school district staff.
“We need to look at how to break the cycle of poverty that we have in this community in order to put it in a better place economically,” she said. “That takes all of us. I may have the vision, but it’s not about me. It’s about us working together as a community to make this happen. Whether you have children in the public school system or not, it is still your investment that’s going to make a difference. A successful public school system means that this community is going to thrive.”