By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
For one of her final acts in a distinguished career in public education, Dr. Judy Black, former Bluefield High School principal, and most recently, director of secondary education for Mercer County Schools, announced that BHS has been awarded a $220,000 grant to continue its efforts to reduce the dropout rate.
“Bluefield High School has had the dropout prevention program for the past three years,” Black said during a telephone interview Friday morning. Black applied for the initial grant to establish the program when she was BHS principal. “It involves a mentoring program, a ninth-grade academy and links advisors.”
During its first two-and-one-half years of operation, the dropout prevention program at BHS was successful in reversing the dropout rate. “Thirty-three percent of the kids in the ninth-grade mentoring program for at-risk students were no longer eligible for the program at the end of the year,” Black said. “They were no longer at risk.”
When she re-wrote the new grant, Black added components to extend portions of the program to help students on the intermediate and middle school level. “All of the student teachers at Bluefield College and Bluefield State College can use the dropout prevention program in these schools for their laboratory classes,” she said, adding that students from the two local colleges will receive college credits for serving as mentors.
Black earned her undergraduate degree at Concord University, her master’s degree at Marshall University and her doctorate at West Virginia University. She spent her first 11 years in education at Raleigh County before moving to the state board of education office for the next 11 years. She completed the final leg of her career in Bluefield and at the central office, but was excited to learn that the grant she wrote to extend and expand the dropout prevention program had been approved. “I found out about the grant two weeks ago,” she said. “I was really excited to do that for the community.
“I’m hoping that the entire community will get behind the program,” she said. “As it stands, every student will be touched by these additional people working with the system. I think it could become a great benefit for the school.” She hopes that the community could participate in a walk-a-thon, possibly as part of the pre-Beaver-Graham game festivities, to promote the: “I promise to graduate” program.
In retirement, Black said she and her husband are planning to take a cruise through the Panama Canal, and hope to one day take another cruise to Alaska. “We want to see the aurora borealis ... the Northern Lights,” she said.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org