By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector
Monday, February 12, 2018
The old saying that it takes village to raise a child is sometimes overused but for schools, businesses and individuals in Pitt County, it still rings true.
A quick look around Pitt County Schools might not reveal the presence of outside entities, but a closer examination shows that dollars and resources are being siphoned into schools to help support initiatives that are otherwise unattainable.
Some partnerships take place at the county level; others are organized by specific schools.
Just last week, Brian Pecheles, president of Pecheles Automotive, donated a $1,000 check to support the Positive Behavior and Intervention Support program at North Pitt High School. The occasion was the latest in a monthly competition that Pecheles hosts on its Facebook page.
Facebook shares are used as votes to decide which school gets the next check. In total, more than $10,000 will be gifted to schools throughout the county by Pecheles.
At North Pitt, the funds will go to reward PBIS members who have showed qualities associated with positive behavior. Maurice Harris, principal of North Pitt, said without local business partnerships, initiatives like PBIS can go without recognition.
“It’s very important because when you’re working in schools, funds are limited,” Harris said. “Sometimes you’re not able to do everything that you want to do because you have limited funds. So whenever we partner with businesses and they say that they will give us money to help support these programs and initiatives, it’s really exciting.”
The Pecheles social media competition is a microcosm of how businesses and individuals can come together to have a positive effect in schools. The more people who share the school’s logo on Facebook, the higher chance the prospective school could see Pecheles walking through the door with his oversized check.
But there are obviously benefits for the businesses as well. It not only looks good to the community but it also could help prepare the next wave of workers to supplement their local economy.
“Education is the foundation to everything and without education you’ve got nothing,” Pecheles said. “Certainly, a lot of leaders right here in Pitt County come from our school system and have done such a great job.”
An array of local businesses, both big and small, have helped contribute, according to PCS Public Information Officers Travis Lewis. Dollar General, for example, gave Grifton School a $1,000 check for its literacy effort. Businesses that contribute, he said, hopefully see an uptick in patronage.
“I’ve been really pleased with how so many local businesses see the big picture,” Lewis said. “They see that by contributing to our schools and helping with our youth, that ultimately they are going to help their bottom line.”
The money from local businesses can even help beyond just educational initiatives. Lewis said purchases made with donated funds can range from out-of-reach amenities to the most basic needs.
At Pitt County Schools there is a need for technology. Earlier this year Sprint helped supply 25 10th graders at Farmville Central High School with smartphones as part of its 1Million project.
But for some students, the needs are much more basic. Business and individual gifts help support the Education Foundation, which in turn helps provide students with school supplies and sometimes even coats, shoes or eyeglasses.
Even as individuals are donating to help, Pitt County’s proverbial Goliaths are doing their part. Vidant Medical Center and East Carolina University and various other organizations have partnered with PCS to help support the Health Sciences Academy, which aims to prepare students with the skills necessary to enter the health-related workforce.
For Vidant, though, it is the school nurses program that is having an effect on all students. All 20 nurses who serve the county’s schools are Vidant employees working under the hospital’s Community Health Programs department. It is a partnership that started in 1995 and one that Catherine Dews Nelson, senior administrator for the Community Health Programs, calls a win-win.
“We felt very strongly that this would be a way to not only demonstrate our commitment to our mission — which is to improve the health of eastern North Carolina — but we know that on our end that helping children and families use this health care system appropriately helps to keep parents at work and keeps students at school. Healthy children learn better,” she said.
Patricia Hooton, the school health manager for Vidant, said that with about 24,000 students, 6,000 of whom have some type of chronic health issue, the 20 nurses see about 10,000 students on a whopping 13,000 separate occasions during a given year.
The goal, of course, is to keep all students healthy. For Wooton, that involves a walking program at Grifton that involves 38 students who may not be getting exercise. On Mondays, they take a walk and log how many steps they have taken in a week. She also has implemented “asthma blitzes,” which teaches both students and parents the basic steps to take regarding inhaler use.
The end game can show meaningful results, Wooton said.
“I’ve had a child in that past that was missing lots and lots of days of school,” she said. “We identified that he was having some medical issues and were able to make an individualized health plan at school, and he came back that following year and cut his absences more than in half and did much better academically.”
The success stories show just how much help outside of local, state and federal dollars is needed to maintain a healthy educational environment, Lewis said.
“I would hope that the community would keep that in mind as well, for the businesses that give back to our schools,” he said.