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Nashville approves career coach partnership with UA-Cossatot

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By John R. Schirmer

Leader staff

The Nashville School Board Monday night approved a partnership with UA-Cossatot to hire a career coach to work with students in grades 8-12.

The 3-1 decision came after about 30 minutes of discussion. Board president Miles Mitchell, David Hilliard and Mark Canaday voted for the proposal; Randy Elliott voted against. Monica Clark recused herself from the vote because she is employed by UA-Cossatot in Nashville.

Cossatot Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole explained the career coach position to board members, citing statistics about benefits to students in districts which utilize the post.

Cossatot will submit a grant application in April to cover part of the salaries for career coaches in participating districts, Cole said. The position is full time and will cost Nashville $12,875 per year. The remainder of the salary will come from the grant or from Cossatot if the grant doesn’t cover it. “This will be beneficial to all the students in Nashville,” Cole said.

Career coaches assist career orientation teachers and counselors by offering programs and services to students to prepare them for college and careers, Cole said. “They serve all students but target ‘middle majority’ students” who might not approach counselors with college or career questions. They also help counselors work with more students each year.

There are 45 career coaches based in 49 high schools through 18 two-year colleges in 31 counties, Cole said. They provided services to 66 percent of students in those districts during the 2014-15 academic year.

The position requires a bachelor’s degree but not necessarily a teaching degree, Cole said.

Representatives of UA-Cossatot joined career coaches from De Queen and Horatio at the board meeting.

Starting with eight graders, the career coaches provide outreach to low-income students and their parents about post-secondary education and information on how to prepare, apply and pay for it, Cole said.

They facilitate the development of individual career plans and portfolios and provide information on careers, career pathways and educational requirements.

Cole and the career coaches said that the program works with school counselors to make sure that all students have the opportunity to explore post-secondary education and careers.

Cole said that Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked him to serve on a statewide concurrent credit committee to try to work on “a uniform way to treat concurrent education. Having an extra person on board will help.”

UA-Cossatot is behind the program and will help participating schools, Cole said. “We’re ready to put our skin in this game.”

Board member Clark asked how the career coach can start with eighth graders and develop a rapport with students through high school seniors. She also asked what schools can do “that we aren’t already doing.”

Superintendent Doug Graham said that the career coaches “make sure that students aren’t falling through the cracks” on ACT information, graduation requirements, careers and other topics.

Cole said that between 2009 and 2015, the AR Works Career Coach program resulted in a 22.16 percent average increase in the college-going rate of participating schools, a 1.58 point increase in ACT scores from 19.53 to 21.11, and a 15.7 percent decrease in the college remediation rate from 63.58 percent to 47.88 percent. “Those are very telling statistics,” he said.

In other items at Monday night’s meeting, Graham said the new track has been installed at Scrapper Stadium. Crews are expected to stripe the track and mark exchange zones later this week, he said. The track should be ready for the Junior Scrapper Relays April 5.

Graham said the track could be re-opened to the public for walking as early Monday, April 4.

The campaign to raise $650,000 for artificial turf at Scrapper Stadium continues, Graham said. “We’re at the 50 percent mark. That’s a good, substantial amount of money. We’ll continue to work on it.”

The board accepted the resignation of Jala’Vett Washington as primary custodian and hired Ruth Lively for the position, effective immediately. The board also hired Mindy Brinkman as secondary math teacher succeeding Allyson Tollett for the 2016-17 academic year.

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