The future of a North Wilkesboro-based nonprofit that works with students in the Wilkes, Alexander, Alleghany and Ashe county schools to help them achieve success and graduate from high school is at risk due to a funding shortfall.
The 16-member board of Communities In Schools (CIS) of Northwest North Carolina learned early last week that the organization’s bank account is overdrawn, said Board Chairman Betsy Welborn, adding that work is underway to determine the extent of the shortfall.
Welborn said Glendora Yarbrough, longtime CIS of Northwest N.C. executive director, learned about the bank account being overdrawn at the end of the prior week and informed the board.
She said Yarbrough and five other CIS of Northwest N.C. employees were told Friday that their jobs were ending that day. The other five are the organization’s finance director, executive director’s assistant, compliance director, coordinator of the Lunch Buddies mentoring program and a part-time position for coordinating the Century Scholars program.
Welborn said the Wilkes County Schools agreed to hire five CIS of Northwest N.C. employees for the remainder of this school year. Staff of the Wilkes schools and Community Schools of N.C., of which Community Schools of Northwest N.C. is an affiliate, are providing support related to the work of the people whose jobs were ended.
Remaining CIS of Northwest N.C. employees include a Century Scholars program coordinator in Wilkes, part-time coordinator of the Lunch Buddies mentoring program in Wilkes and site coordinators at Moravian Falls and North Wilkesboro elementary schools and North Wilkes Middle School. Site coordinators serve as liaisons and help provide resources and services at their respective schools.
Current CIS of Northwest N.C. programs will continue at least through the end of this school year, said Welborn. “We believe continuity of services to students is of utmost importance. Therefore, we have put our efforts into maintaining school site staff through our (public school) district partnerships.”
She also said, “We are hoping we can continue these services next year. We have March through June to work it out.” The Wilkes County Schools provides CIS of Northwest N.C. office space at no cost in the school system administration building on Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro.
Welborn said the shortfall resulted largely from multiple grants to CIS of Northwest N.C. not being renewed this fiscal year and a decline in grant funding overall in the past three years. “I don’t think there was any misappropriation of funds,” she added.
“We should have downsized the team immediately” when a two-year, $389,000 Learning and Integrated Student Supports (ELISS) grant ran out June 30, she said. “They thought it would be renewed, but ELISS is a competitive grant and there are no assurances that we will get it.”
When the ELISS grant ended June 30, five CIS of Northwest N.C. employees who had been funded by the grant continued as site coordinators in Alexander County elementary schools until Jan. 31, with the Alexander County Schools providing pay for three of the five starting Feb. 1. These site coordinators provide tutoring and small group academic support focused on reading skills in the five Alexander elementary schools.
Welborn said the ELISS grant also paid parts of the salaries of Yarbrough, the finance director, the compliance officer and part of the cost of the Lunch Room Buddies mentoring program.
As a result of the shortfall, she said, “we are reshaping how we deliver services to students and the community in partnership with our local school districts.” This includes staff of the Wilkes and Alleghany school systems proving some services now provided entirely by CIS of Northwest N.C. staff.
“Student services will continue throughout the remainder of the school year because district leadership believe in the program and have agreed to partner in a new way to ensure wraparound supports to students in Alleghany and Wilkes counties.”
Welborn said the Alleghany County Schools agreed to fund salaries of three CIS of Northwest N.C. site coordinators, one apiece at Glade Creek, Piney Creek and Sparta elementary schools, and a part-time Century Scholars coordinator.
She said the position of site coordinator at Ashe County Middle School ended Jan. 31.
The organization began as Wilkes One-on-One Inc. in 1983, providing weekly adult mentoring to students who had been in the juvenile justice program. It soon added the Friends of Youth Program, which provided other students with adult mentors.
In 1998, the name was changed to Communities In Schools of Wilkes when it affiliated with the national CIS organization. This resulted in another expansion of services. It became CIS of Northwest N.C. when the service area was expanded to include Alexander County.
In November 2016, Ashe County Schools contacted CIS of Northwest NC about expanding to Ashe Middle School. Soon after that, it expanded to the Alleghany elementary schools.
The organization’s services in Wilkes include the New Century Scholars, which provides scholarships to Wilkes Community College to students who start participating in the sixth grade; Lunch Buddies mentoring program; annual collection of school supplies for students in need; homework completion services to Moravian Falls Elementary students who live in Country Square Mobile Home Park; a dance program; and free eye exams and eye glasses.