Community in Schools program officially at work in Marion County

The name and program which has been promoted in Marion County as “Communities in Schools” for more than 15 months, finally became official Aug. 30.

CIS began more than 25 years ago when Bill Milliken, a high school dropout, saw the need for a program to reach struggling children and teens in their home communities.

His original mission has grown into a nationally recognized effort, supported by private and public partnerships, and billed as the largest stay-in-school networking nonprofit organization in the country.

The guiding principles of CIS are that children need a personal, one-on-one relationship with a caring adult; a safe place to learn and grow; a marketable skill to use upon graduation; a chance to give back to the community; and a healthy start and a healthy future.

Typical outcomes achieved by the program include increased school attendance, promotion and graduation rates; improved grade point averages; and reduced incidences of discipline and dropouts.

In June, a task force was formed which included a range of professions, community membership and interests.

One of the task force members, attorney John Johnson of Hillsboro, provided expertise and services through the incorporation process and toward the final product presented at the Aug. 30 meeting.

Nine task force members were selected or volunteered to serve as executive board members. New executive board members are Gordon Mohn, Elfrieda Funk, Howard Keim, Regina Kimbrel, Pam Lamborn, Heath Marrs, Dennis Nichols, Cheri Ochs Wheeler, Leslie Miles, Laura Williams, Linda Peterson and Irvin Voth.

Board recruitment will continue as the goal is to form an executive board of 15 to 20 person, 60 percent of whom are affiliated with the private sector, and 40 percent who are representatives of a public entity.

According to board members, for the past several years in Marion County, there has been a need for organizational streamlining. Many school administrators and service providers attend between four and 10 meetings a month, and see the same faces at each meeting.

Through the Communities In Schools of Marion County model, it is hoped that several of these groups may merge, offering the opportunity for one large group to meet on a monthly basis as the advisory board to the Communities in Schools of Marion County executive board.

This possibility is currently in the discussion stage, but receiving much support.

The CIS of Marion County initiative has been led by Howard Keim, former CIS field services director and current faculty dean at Tabor College; Gordon Mohn, superintendent of USD 410; and Linda Ogden, coordinator of the SICA grant programs in Marion County.

Mohn and Ogden served as local contact persons and attended a national CIS training in the fall of 1999.

Anyone interested in learning more about Communities in School of Marion County can contact either Mohn or Ogden, or visit with any executive board member.

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