Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Intervention Retired Educator Rushing in before Students Can Drop Out

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Intervention Retired Educator Rushing in before Students Can Drop Out

Article excerpt

When retired educator Bill Davis hears about a student who might drop out of school, he doesn't wait for bureaucracy to grind out the proper forms.

"The school will call and I'll try to do something within two days," Davis said. "By the time the paperwork gets there, it's too late." He makes a lot of personal visits - and a lot of phone calls.

He catches up on the paperwork later.

Davis heads the truancy alternative program (TAP) for the nine public school districts in Monroe and Randolph counties under a contract that calls for him to work three days a week.

He credits his boss, regional superintendent Faye Hughes, with setting up the program and making it work, but she says he is the one who has made it successful. It is supported by a grant from the state.

Records from last school year show five out of six at-risk students in the program succeeded. That is, they stayed in school and advanced to the next grade. And the cost per student was a mere $63.49.

"Actually I'm doing about the same things as I did when I was a dean of students," Davis said. "I determine what's most appropriate for the child."

Davis works with students in kindergarten through high school. He says potential dropouts are not hard to spot. Their grades go down and their absences go up. Davis relies on the student's teacher or guidance counselor to notify him.

He promptly pays a visit to the student at school, then interviews at least one parent, usually at home. "I refer to other agencies," he said. "It depends on what I find."

What he finds can be anything from simple poverty to child abuse, but he said there's no mystery about what he finds most often. "Nine out of 10 times it's alcohol."

That is true not only of high school students, but sometimes among students in sixth grade or even younger, Davis said. "It begins at the earliest age. …

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