Press Release: United Way Forsyth County Moonlight Madness Event Raises $21,000

United Way of Forsyth County held its 2017 Campaign Kickoff Friday September 22 , 2017 with the Moonlight Madness 5K and Fun Run Event. Over 800 runners competed in the 5K run and over 1200 people attended the event held in Bailey Park. The first runner to cross the finish line was Kristin Weisse. The youngest participant was 2 years old and the oldest participant George Kimberly is 83. Junction 311 Race company managed the logistics of the race.

 

In addition to the race, United Way of Forsyth County also hosted the band Disco Lemonade , several partner agencies and provided giveaways and information about its work in the community. There was also a guitar raffle sponsored by Salem Music. A total of $21,000.00 was raised.

 

Director of Engagement, Amanda Rosemann notes, “I couldn’t be more thrilled about the success of our kickoff. We wanted to create an event that was open to the community and provided a night of fun and entertainment for everyone. Thank you to all of our sponsors , volunteers and staff who helped to make the night so memorable”.

 

Plans are already underway for next year’s race event.

 

DOT Offering Matching Program for Bus Passes

Local non-profit organizations that provide, or are willing to provide, free WSTA bus passes to their clients are invited to apply for additional free passes under a Bus Pass Matching Distribution Program the City Council authorized as part of the city’s Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget.

The council has allocated $90,000 for the program, which can be used for two types of passes: 10-ride bus passes on WSTA’s regular routes, or 30-ride Trans-Aid passes. For every pass that an agency buys for its clients, the city will provide a matching pass.

Applications for matching passes will be approved on a rolling basis, first-come, first served until the program budget is depleted. There is no limit to the number of matching passes that an organization may request, however, agencies must be able to guarantee that the passes will be distributed at no charge to low income, disabled or elderly riders. Complete details and an application are posted at DOT.CityofWS.org.

United Way of Forsyth County’s Back to School Supply Event Provides Students at Kimberley Park 330 Backpacks

Winston-Salem, NC – September 13, 2017 – United Way worked with several non-profits in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County community to help students kick off the 2017-2018 school year as prepared as possible.

Currently there are approximately 54,762 students enrolled in WSFC Schools and 57% of those students are free/reduced lunch recipients.

United Way Forsyth County Director of Engagement, Amanda Rosemann notes, “For many parents, purchasing school supplies is a daunting task especially when you’re struggling to find money to pay for a meal. We want to thank the entire community for helping us in collecting much needed school supplies that will give students a good start to the school year and ease some of the financial burden parents are facing”.

United Way Forsyth County began collecting school supplies starting August 7th and was able to provide backpacks and supplies to students at Kimberley Park Elementary School. 313 backpacks were donated by Weston and Associates and United Way Staff donated 200 3-ring binders, hundreds of glue sticks and folders. Paper, pencils, erasers, crayons and composition books were collected from the community.

The Garage, owned and operated by Tucker Tharpe, held a fundraiser that collected supplies and over $800.00 to be used for needs throughout the school year.  Tharpe said, “This was a great cause and a great way for us to support the community in which we live”.

Dr. Jon Epstein, one of the performers noted, “This was a wonderful opportunity for the music community of Winston Salem to come together in support of school children. As an educator, I know first-hand how difficult it can be for students to simply have the basics to succeed in school – the WSFC community and United Way will make a difference in hundreds of school children’s lives”.

Kimberley Park Elementary was founded by John W. Paisley and Albert H. Anderson and was constructed and officially opened in 1925. After the school faced adversity by being burned down, it was reconstructed in the 1960’s.

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United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

When the Storms Pass, Caring Adults Must Remain

By: Alma Powell, Chair America’s Promise Alliance

This time of year, 12 years ago, Hurricanes Rita and Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast. Houston became the refuge of choice for 60,000 people, over half of whom were school-aged youth. The city opened its arms, homes, schools, and churches, while more kept coming and many never left. Three hundred thousand people eventually chose to call this hospitable city their home. These same souls are now going through it all again.

America’s Promise Alliance was on the Gulf Coast for five years after the storms to raise awareness about the needs of the children, to drive collaboration among organizations and individuals, and to help direct resources not only to the physical recovery of children, but also their emotional and social well-being.

We learned a great deal. All children need a variety of opportunities and supports to thrive now and later in life. The needs are felt deeply in marginalized and distressed communities where families are most likely to suffer the long-term effects of the storms.

Recovery takes years. Families will move multiple times, many will never return, unemployment will be staggeringly high, and more than half of the displaced children will display emotional and behavioral difficulties not present before the storm. Post-traumatic stress syndrome often doesn’t peak until three to five years after the trauma has occurred.

Look beyond the headlines and try to imagine what the children are feeling. We won’t know for certain until after Irma leaves her mark, but we can anticipate that up to a million children and youth won’t be going back to their homes, schools, and churches anytime soon. Their learning, nutrition, friendships, and playtime will all be disrupted. Their support systems have literally been washed away.

Hurricanes peel away our illusions of independence. We rely on each other. Our children are relying on us to pave the way for their future, to be caring adults, to provide physical and emotional safety, to ensure a healthy start and an education that prepares them for independence. They also need the opportunity to help others. These are the Five Promises all children need and deserve, especially those who have been exposed to such trauma.

The waters will recede, the rescues will end and the ‘relief and recovery’ will begin with chain saws and bulldozers and helpers from far away. Americans give generously and then America moves on.

We need to keep nurturing, protecting, listening, and supporting these children for years to come. We will be looking for ways to help.  Each of us can make a difference one caring adult and one child at a time. Start by sending a message of hope and encouragement to a young person. They are the promise of America and they are counting on us.

How Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, NC Ended Chronic Veteran Homelessness

By Andrea Kurtz, Senior Director of Housing Strategies, United Way of Forsyth County

Overview
Forsyth County covers 413 square miles in the northwestern part of North Carolina, and includes the city of Winston-Salem. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the population of Forsyth County was 371,511 in 2016, of which 7%, or 24,562, were Veterans. In 2016, 1,558 people experiencing homelessness sought help from HMIS-participating agencies in our county. About 144 were Veterans. While we saw a 3% decrease in our population of people experiencing homelessness overall from the prior year, we had an 18% decrease in Veteran homelessness. Our community has one 24-bed Grant and Per Diem program that serves Veterans with disabilities. We are served by the W. G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center, which is located outside our county in Salisbury, North Carolina.

When and why did you decide to tackle this issue?
In 2007, when our community began implementing our strategic plan, The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, we saw that Veterans were significantly over-represented among our population of people experiencing homelessness in general, and specifically among those experiencing chronic homelessness. At the time, we began discussions and evaluations of how to best address this disparity. In 2014, our Mayor, Allen Joines, was one of the first mayors to commit to the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

Who were the most important partners to have at the table?
As we began our work on ending Veteran homelessness, we first took time to define which “table” we would gather people around in order to develop plans on addressing the needs of Veterans experiencing homelessness. Our community was committed that the “table” was the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Continuum of Care (CoC), and that while we may break off into side conversations, the primary work would be done through the structure of our CoC. In assessing who needed to be a part of the conversation, we identified three subsets of providers: 1) Veteran
service providers; 2) homelessness service providers; and 3) key mainstream service providers and sectors. Within these categories, we identified:
Veteran Service Providers:
• Veterans Affairs HUD-VASH and Grant and Per Diem program staff, outreach workers, Homeless
Liaisons, and key staff from the Veteran Benefits Administration
• Veterans Helping Veterans Heal, our local Grant and Per Diem program
• Forsyth Rapid Re-Housing Veterans Program
• Local Veteran service organizations
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Homelessness Service Providers
• Area homeless shelters, including shelters for single adults and families
• Forsyth Rapid Re-housing Collaborative
• Experiment in Self Reliance, our local community action agency
Other Mainstream Services and Sectors
• Housing Authority of Winston-Salem
• Forsyth County Department of Social Services
• Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina
• Vocational Rehabilitation
• Private Landlords
• Local businesses

In addition to these key players, who were the primary developers of our plans, we had unwavering support from Mayor Joines’ Office. His contribution to maintaining the political will, not just from local elected officials, but more generally across the community, helped make the work of system improvement that much easier.

What key strategies do you use to identify all Veterans experiencing homelessness (criteria 1)?
Part of our groundwork was to make sure that we had a system to identify all known Veterans experiencing homelessness, whether they are on the streets, in shelters, or couch surfing. In order to do that, the core team identified all of our CoC’s outreach teams/resources and sites in the community where we knew we could find Veterans experiencing homelessness in order to educate these staff on “who and how” people should be referred to our community’s coordinated assessment system for homeless Veteran services. Key partners in this work include the Veterans Affairs Homeless Outreach staff, the Homeless Liaison at our public library, The Empowerment Team (a local street outreach team), our local managed care entity, and our winter overflow
emergency shelter provider. As with most of our improvements, the first step was relationship building between staff at the different agencies and cross training them on the different resources and interventions each organization had available. In addition, we worked with all the staff at each partner to focus on connecting anyone that they thought was a Veteran—or even might be a Veteran—to our coordinated intake center, where they could be more thoroughly assessed.

What key strategies do you use to provide shelter immediately to any Veteran experiencing unsheltered homelessness who wants it (criteria 2)?

The most important strategy we use to ensure that all Veterans experiencing unsheltered homelessness are offered shelter is communication. This includes communication among all the outreach staff in our community— whether they are doing street outreach or working at the public library—to know what shelter services are available in our community and how to connect a Veteran to these services. All outreach staff always ask an unsheltered person if they would like to come into shelter, and if a Veteran indicates they do, to help facilitate them getting connected to the right shelter. If the Veteran chooses not to come in, outreach staff encourage them to at least consent to connecting to Coordinated Assessment so they can get connected to supportive housing
programs.
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United States Interagency Council on Homelessness 3
If we know there is an unsheltered Veteran in our community, we make a concerted effort to have outreach staff connect with them on a regular basis to continually offer shelter options while a permanent housing strategy is implemented.

What key strategies do you use to make sure your community only provides service intensive transitional housing in limited instances (criteria 3)?
In our CoC, we see transitional housing programs not as a broadly needed stepping stone to permanency, but rather as a critical specialized service to be used when other permanent options have proven unsuccessful because of an individual’s needs, generally around substance abuse and mental health issues. We have a very limited number of service-intensive GPD beds. These beds, while technically open to any Veteran from our VA Medical Center’s catchment area, primarily focus on serving Veterans from our CoC and the surrounding counties
from our Balance of State who have significant needs for substance abuse and mental health services. The CoC, VA, and GPD staff maintain regular conversations about keeping the work of the GPD focused on Veterans who are in need of intensive services because other interventions, such as permanent supportive housing or rapid rehousing,
have proven unsuccessful.

What key strategies do you use to make sure your community has the capacity to assist Veterans to swiftly move into permanent housing (criteria 4)?
Our coordinated assessment system is our primary driver for moving Veterans quickly into permanent housing. Once we have identified an individual as a potential Veteran, we can usually verify their discharge status and any active duty periods within 24 hours, which helps our coordinated assessment staff better understand which programs they may be eligible for. From there, our coordinated assessment staff can connect the Veteran, based upon our CoC-adopted housing prioritization plan, into a housing program that offers the least intensive services necessary to help stabilize the Veteran and their family in permanent housing. We work very closely with the VA to ensure that there is coordination between our coordinated assessment and the VA’s intake staff.

What key strategies do you use to make sure you have the resources, plans, and system capacity in place should any Veteran become homeless or be at risk of homelessness in the future (criteria 5)?
With our SSVF program, we offer a limited amount of prevention services for Veterans. In addition, our CoC has
developed a process of continuous quality improvement. This process continually monitors our performance data
and evaluates the needs and gaps in our system both for Veterans and non-Veterans. Through our quarterly
action planning meetings, we are able to develop short, medium, and long-range plans to ensure that our system
is able to meet the emergent needs of people in our community facing a housing crisis.
What are the top three things your community has done to make sure you are sustaining
your progress?
1) Build and invest in relationships
2) Focus on continuous improvement
3) Monitor resource use and allocation to make sure that we have the right resources reaching the right
populations of Veterans

Winston Salem Forsyth County Graduation Rates Increase for the 10th Consecutive Year

SEPTEMBER 7, 2017 – The number of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools exceeding expected growth increased to 23 in 2016-17, up from 8 in 2015-16. Another 32 schools met expected growth, meaning 77 percent of WS/FC schools met or exceeded expected growth, the most in more than four years.

These results mean WS/FCS tied with Guilford County Schools for the highest percentage of schools exceeding growth within North Carolina’s five largest districts.

Eleven WS/FC schools came off the low-performing list including Carver, North Forsyth and Parkland high schools and Wiley, Mineral Springs, and Flat Rock middle schools.  Griffith, Mineral Springs, Petree, South Fork, and Ward elementary schools also showed sufficient improvement to come off the low-performing list.

“Students are at the heart of what we do, and we have focused our efforts on identifying the students most in need of additional support,” said Superintendent Beverly Emory. “By using data-driven decision-making as a means of doing business, we are learning to objectively talk about and address the needs of our most challenged students.”

For the 10th consecutive year, seniors in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools graduated at a higher rate with 86.5 percent of the class of 2017 graduating in four years, according to results presented today to the N.C. State Board of Education. 85.7 percent of students graduated in four years in 2016. Over the past eight years, WS/FCS’s graduation rate has increased 15.7 percentage points from 70.8 in 2008. The percentage of students graduating in five years also increased from last year, from 86.3 to 87.1. The state’s four-year high school cohort graduation rate grew to 86.5 percent from the 85.9 percent in 2015-16. North Carolina’s public schools have set a record graduation rate for a 12th consecutive year.

The graduation rate has increased with the help of a community pledge to raise it to 90 percent by 2018. The United Way of Forsyth County; the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce; Graduate. It Pays; Big Brothers/Big Sisters; and The Forsyth Promise have each supported programs to help students graduate.

“We remain committed to our goal to raise the graduation rate to 90 percent by 2018,” Emory said. “We must focus our efforts on supporting students to make decisions that will have them college and career ready by June.”

More than 95 percent of students graduated in four years from Early College, Middle College, West Forsyth, Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy and Atkins high schools. Five other schools – East Forsyth, Mount Tabor, Reagan, Reynolds and Walkertown – had graduation rates greater than 90 percent.

The results were released today under the NC READY accountability program. These include graduation rates, proficiency levels on end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, academic growth and school performance grades.

Other results released today include how students did on the end-of-grade and end-of-course tests that measure proficiency. The current scale reports the percentage of students who are grade-level proficient (GLP) and the percentage who are college-and-career ready (CCR). The GLP measure includes students who score at Level 3 and above and show at least sufficient command of the material. Students at Level 3 could be college and career ready with additional support.

Using the GLP measure in high school courses, 58.0 percent of WS/FC students were proficient in Biology, 58.2 percent were proficient in English II, and 62.6 percent were proficient in Math I. Those numbers compare locally to 53.6 percent, 56.8 percent and 55.5 percent the previous year. The state scores in 2016-17 were 56.1, 60.7 and 64.3, respectively.

Using the CCR measure for high schools, 50.0 percent of WS/FC students were proficient in Biology, 48.2 percent were proficient in English II, and 51.1 percent were proficient in Math I. Those numbers compare locally to 46.0 percent, 48.3 percent and 44.9 percent the previous year. In North Carolina, scores in 2016-17 were 47.5, 50.1 and 54.1, respectively.

“We hold a core belief that adult behaviors impact student outcomes, and we are working to improve our development of principals and school-level leaders,” Emory said. “We have reorganized our central office structure to provide targeted feedback and support, and we expect to see tangible results.”

In Forsyth County, 50.8 percent of students in grades 3-8 scored at Level 3 and greater in reading, and 48.9 percent scored at Level 3 and greater in math, compared to 50.8 percent and 49.1 percent the previous year. In science, 65.4 percent of WS/FCS students scored at Level 3 or greater, compared to 68.8 percent last year. Across the state, 57.5 percent and 55.4 percent were proficient in reading and math, while 72.8 percent were proficient in 5th grade science and 72.8 percent were proficient in 8th grade science in 2016-17.

Using the CCR measure, 40.4 percent of WS/FCS students in grades 3-8 were proficient in reading and 42.5 percent were proficient in math, compared to 41.0 percent and 42.3 percent the previous year. In science, 55.9 percent of students were proficient, compared to 59.7 percent last year. Across the state, 45.5 percent were proficient in reading, 47.6 percent were proficient in math and 61.8 percent were proficient in 5th grade science and 62.6 percent were proficient in 8th grade science in 2015-16.

“The data makes our work clear,” Emory said. “However, we are fortunate to have community support behind us. Efforts such as Project Impact and the Peer Project are helping us accomplish our district goals.”

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction assigns each school a letter grade from “A” to “F.” In elementary and middle schools, 80 percent of the grade is based on student proficiency (Level 3 or greater) on state tests in grades 3 through 8 and 20 percent is based on student growth. In high schools, graduation rates, ACT performance and other indicators are used in addition to state tests to calculate the school grade.

In the state’s performance grades, seven schools received a letter grade of A+ or A. The plus indicates that the school did not have a significant achievement gap that was larger than the largest state average achievement gap. Eighteen schools received a B; 18 schools received a C; 18 schools received a D; and 12 schools received an F.

For the third consecutive year, North Carolina labeled schools that received a performance grade of D or F and did not exceed their growth goals as low-performing. In WS/FCS, 23 schools were named by the state as low-performing, a decrease from 32 the previous year.

“We believe the leadership programs and supports we began to put in place last year are long-term solutions that will help students in these schools,” Emory said. “It’s also important to understand that 12 of these schools met their growth goals.”

North Carolina has had a school accountability program since 1996 and began using NC READY in 2012-13. NC READY measures academic growth and the percentage of students who are proficient in measured courses, as well as:

End-of-grade assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8

End-of-grade assessments in science in grades 5 and 8

End-of-course assessments in Math I, Biology and English II in high schools

The percentage of students with a composite score of 17 or greater on the ACT, which is the UNC System minimum admissions standard

The percentage of graduates taking and passing a higher-level math course, such as Math III

The percentage of concentrator graduates awarded silver level or better on the ACT WorkKeys assessments

Four-year and five-year graduation rates

More detailed statistics and results are available at North Carolina Public Schools.