Workforce Council Grant
Published 6:41 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2022
The agenda for the Southampton County School Board meeting on March 12, listed “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – In-School Youth Program” as item D under Information Items. When this item came up, Dr. Goodwyn introduced the topic by telling the Board that for the program that Southampton County Public Schools (SCPS) had received for “probably 15 or 16 years” there has been “a gap in service.” Dr. Goodwyn continued to explain saying “no student lost funding, there were no students enrolled in the current year so no enrolled student lost services.” Dr. Shannon went on to explain that this grant is for students who are skill-deficient, students who are homeless, pregnant or parenting, students with disabilities and English language learners.
The sponsor of this grant (in the amount of $130,000 per year) is the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, and their website had a description of the program at Southampton High School as the following: “The Career Services Program is committed to working with students, parents, staff members, and stakeholders to ensure the success of eligible students. Students receive support in career exploration and immersion primarily in Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Math (STEAM) related occupational areas as well as academic preparation and work experiences. Implementation of services impact our high school completion rates, promote postsecondary education and increase awareness of career opportunities. The ultimate goal is to promote student success through an ongoing, comprehensive plan of services emphasizing 21st century job skills.”
Dr. Shannon reported “basically we have just had a gap in service, we had transition with personnel…it was difficult for us to hire new personnel to fill the vacancy…able to eventually hire someone to fill the vacancy, but because she did not have any students that would carry over from one year to the next, she ended up having no students when the company or the people over the grant came down to look at what we were actually doing and how our services were being provided and so at that time it was decided the grant would be terminated and we are calling it a gap in service because we believe the gap exists due to COVID-19, turnover in personnel and not having any students carry over from one year to the next.” Additionally, Dr. Shannon reported that during COVID-19, they didn’t have any students working, and after COVID 19, there were only seven students enrolled in the program and “they all graduated this past year.”
The facts tell a slightly different story. First, there were actually 18 participants under the 2020-2021 contract, not seven. The long term ISY case manager, which is a 12 month position, for this program at SHS left in June of 2021. In late September, staff from the Hampton Roads Workforce Council met with the contact for the program at SHS to discuss the status of the program, as there was no job posting for the case manager position, and the program contact at SHS did not know when a posting was supposed to be made. A few days later, the director of the Workforce Council contacted Dr. Shannon about their concerns. The next day, on October 5th, a job posting was made, and the position was filled effective November 29th. Between November 29th and February 9th, there were no completed applications for students to enroll in the program, as verified by the Workforce Council during a visit to the program on February 9th. This status was labeled by the Workforce Council as severely underperforming, and at the February Board meeting, the Workforce Council Board voted to terminate the grant. Dr. Shannon was notified via letter on February 16th that the grant was being terminated due to “a record of sustained and continuing underperformance for the period between July 1, 2021 and February 9, 2022. It was also “determined that the performance expectations outlined in the contract could not be satisfactorily met by June 30, 2022.”
Calling this a “gap in service” due to COVID-19, transition in personnel and having no students carry over from one year to the next is misleading and a disservice to the students who should have been enrolled in this program for the current school year. So yes, students who needed these services the most did in fact lose out because that didn’t even get a chance to participate. It also begs the question, now that the funding is gone, is the newly hired case manager’s position also terminated?And during COVID-19, when it was claimed that no students worked, did the division still submit program expenses for reimbursement? These questions, along with the discrepancies between the account told at the School Board Meeting and the documentation describing the Workforce Council’s decision to terminate the grant, are enough to cause concern about how special programs are being run in Southampton County Schools.
MANDY HALL is a graduate of Franklin High School and Virginia Tech, and lives in Courtland. She is a Senior Study Director and Research Operations Associate with over 20 years of her career dedicated to research in education, policy, and the social sciences. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.