Gouge to address meeting on lowering dropout rate Calif. conference targets employment


Carroll Commissioner Julia W. Gouge will go to San Francisco next month to talk to county officials from throughout the country about Carroll programs that aim to keep students in school.

Mrs. Gouge will speak at the National Association of Counties' annual conference on employment policy and human services Nov. 19-22.

She is a member of NACo's employment committee and chairs a subcommittee on "school-to-work" programs.

About 700 people are expected to attend the conference at the San Francisco Hilton and Towers, NACo Public Affairs Director Tom Goodman said.

Mrs. Gouge said she will talk about several programs that Carroll's Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) office and public schools sponsor for students and adults.

The programs target middle- and high-school students "who meander their way through school" and are likely to graduate with no plans for work or higher education, said Diane Massey, head of Carroll's JTPA office.

"Our whole effort is to reduce the dropout rate in Carroll County," she said. "The ultimate goal is for people to be lifelong learners and be successfully employed."

Carroll's dropout rate is considerably lower than the state's and nation's. In Carroll, 2.84 percent of high school students dropped out last year. In Maryland, the rate was about 27 percent; nationwide, it was about 28 percent.

While Carroll's rate is low, county educators worry about whether students who leave school without appropriate training will be able to support themselves, Mrs. Massey said.

The county implemented one of the first school-to-work projects in the nation four years ago, when it received a U.S. Department of Labor grant of about $98,000 for a demonstration program, she said.

Carroll's was one of three such projects in Maryland. Six other cities and states nationwide received similar grants.

School-to-work programs are aimed at 11th- and 12th-graders. Advisers work with students to make sure that when they leave (( high school, they have a plan to work, attend college or accomplish both, Mrs. Massey said.

During this school year, about 180 students will participate in the program, said Peg Kulow, coordinator of the Carroll arm of Maryland's Tomorrow program.

Maryland's Tomorrow is a broader program that helps potential dropouts when they are in eighth grade. Advisers work with those students throughout high school to make sure they are aware of career opportunities and are taking classes that will lead them to their goals, Mrs. Massey said.

Advisers target vocational fields with growing employment, and many students visit work sites for on-the-job experience, she said.

Two career advisers work in Carroll's five high schools to help Maryland's Tomorrow students, she said.

About 300 high school students are enrolled in the program this year.

"JTPA is so important in Carroll County," Mrs. Gouge said. "With the recession, we've got more people who need training."

NACo may draft federal legislation concerning school-to-work programs, she said.

The goal of the San Francisco conference is to discuss what county governments can accomplish through JTPA programs and how local officials can learn from innovative programs in other areas, Mr. Goodman said.

Participants will attend sessions on health care, welfare programs and disabled-accessibility laws, he said.

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