Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

May 10, 2012

Phoenix School awarded Good Samaritans grant

CROSSVILLE — The Phoenix School's Phoenix Wings Program has been awarded a $25,000 grant from Cumberland Good Samaritans to help meet students' basic needs and remove barriers to success.

The grant application states Phoenix School has the highest percentage of students at or below the poverty level in Cumberland County. The students are considered "at risk" for a number of reasons, including lack of family structure, economic disadvantages, homelessness, having adult responsibilities and falling through the educational cracks in previous years.

"We motivate our students by providing them with anything necessary to make their lives less chaotic and remove stressors," the application reads. "In doing so, it is our hope that they will come to school everyday because we have eliminated the obstacles preventing them from making education a priority."

Operating under an umbrella program of Cumberland Good Samaritans, grant funds will be used to purchase materials and supplies needed to meet those basic needs and remove barriers, compensate employees for time and transportation and pay for special occasions and events, such a turkeys for Thanksgiving, a spa day for prom and recognition and reward materials.

The Phoenix School allows students to complete the credits necessary for graduation and graduate on time. The students take the same core curriculum as students at Cumberland County High School and Stone Memorial High School, and are required to take the same Gateway exams and End-of-Course tests. They also must take the ACT exam to graduate.

Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said, "The only difference is they take fewer electives."

VanWinkle added Phoenix student scores on Gateway and End-of-Course tests were higher than the other two schools.

According to the grant information, since opening in 2007, the Phoenix School has been instrumental in improving the county's graduation rate, raising it from 76.5 percent in 2007 to 92.3 percent in 2011.

"The Phoenix School and Phoenix Wings program is responsible for this success," the application states. "In our years of operation, 448 students who were expected to be drop-outs have graduated from high school. Another 127 will graduate this year."

Sandra Brewer, 3rd District representative, moved to approve the grant funds during the April 26 Cumberland County Board of Education meeting, adding, "I'd like to say thank you to Good Samaritans for the grant. I'm appreciative."

VanWinkle said, "This is the first time this grant has been received. It will help keep connections with the students during the summer as well as during the year."

Brewer's motion was supported by Gordon Davis, 5th District representative, and was unanimously approved.

In other business, the board approved donating a surplus school bus to the Southeastern Regional Correctional Facility Tactical Squad for use as a response vehicle for department of corrections incidents as well as other emergency situations and natural disasters.

VanWinkle said the bus was still in good shape, but no longer met the standards to be used as a school bus.

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