Leveraging Local Resources: Promising Practices for Dropout Prevention and Recovery in Rural Districts

Leveraging Local Resources: Promising Practices for Dropout Prevention and Recovery in Rural Districts
Leveraging Local Resources: Promising Practices for Dropout Prevention and Recovery in Rural Districts


Graduation rates have hit a plateau, with high schools across the country graduating just 71.7 percent of students in 2012. In recent years, many efforts to address the dropout crisis have focused on large, urban schools and districts. Yet, a national effort to reduce the number of students dropping out requires policymakers to consider strategies for all communities, including rural schools and districts. Particularly for rural communities, policies and programs to prevent and recover high school dropouts should build upon resources and capacities which already exist within the community. This webinar explored the use of state data systems for the development and implementation of early warning systems in Sussex County, Virginia, and described the Communities In Schools model that has been implemented in the Greater Central Texas region.


Speakers for this webinar included Charlie Harris, Superintendent, Sussex County Public Schools, Richelle Hines, Data Specialist, Sussex County Public Schools, and Mary Erwin Barr, Executive Director, Communities In Schools of Greater Central Texas.


 Presenter Biographies

Mary Erwin Barr, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Greater Central Texas, Inc., has led Communities In Schools since August 1998. Having worked the previous ten years in the Killeen Independent School District, she knows how to bring school and community resources together to benefit children.

During her ten years with Killeen ISD, Mary served for five years as the Director of Early Childhood Programs. In the remaining five years, she served in three significant positions:  1) Director of Guidance and Counseling, 2) Director of At-Risk Programs, and 3) Director of Drug Education.

Mary holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor and a Masters of Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University. She has earned four education certifications from the State of Texas including Counseling, Administrative Supervision, Early Childhood and Elementary Education.  She has served in the past on the Commissioner’s Advisory Council on Reading and also as an advisor to the Commissioner on Education on issues concerning Early Childhood Education. Mary has been active in many state professional organizations and served as President of the Texas Association of Administrators and Supervisors of Programs for Young Children.

As Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Greater Central Texas, Inc., Mary has received several recognitions and honors. In April 2003, Mary was named Best of Texas CIS Executive Director of the Year for outstanding leadership and direction among the 26 CIS programs in the state. In the spring of 2006, Mary was selected as President of the Texas Association of Communities In Schools’ Executive Directors for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years.

Mary is married to David Barr, a local Commercial Realtor and has three adult children: son Bill Erwin and his wife Lea Anne; son Tom Erwin and his wife Leslie; and daughter Mary Anne Hartley and her husband Peter. Mary has been blessed with two grandsons and a granddaughter: Pierson Hartley, Carter Erwin, and Birdie Erwin.


Dr. Charles H. Harris, III, Ed.D., is a native of Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from Virginia State College in 1977, Masters in Education from the University of Virginia in 1981, and his Doctors Degree in Education Administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1998.

Dr. Harris career in education extends over 35 years as a Social studies Teacher/coach in Montross, Virginia; Assistant Principal in Palmyra, Virginia; Principal in Goochland and Spotsylvania Counties, and Director of Middle Education in Spotsylvania County Public Schools.  Dr. Harris has been serving as the Division Superintendent for Sussex County Public Schools, Sussex, Virginia since 2003.

In addition to his administrative career and work, he has coached football and basketball.  The high school football team coaching staff directed teams to the regional playoffs for three consecutive years with one team going undefeated into the State Championship game. He has also served as Regional Chairman of Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals and just completed a four-year term on the National Federation of State High School Associations Board of Directors (NFHSBD). The NFHSBD establishes sports rules for Secondary School athletics.

Dr. Harris was recommended in 1981 by the University of Virginia as “Outstanding Student of the Year.”  Dr. Harris philosophically believes that all students can learn, and that high expectations must be set for every child to be successful.  He shares with his staff the notion that students should be treated with respect, and provided quality instruction for students to be our leaders of tomorrow.

Recently, Dr. Harris, under the terms of the Virginia State’s Academic Partnership (VSAPP), entered an agreement with Virginia State University to establish a dual enrollment program for Sussex County’s secondary students. The dual enrollment partnership epitomize “win-win” collaboration between secondary schools and higher education,” said President Dr. Keith T. Miller of Virginia State University.

Dr. Harris has served as Adjunct professor at George Mason University and Virginia State University. He is a member of the American Association of School Administrators, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, and Phi Delta Kappa.

Dr. Harris finds time to mentor young students, and assist them in achieving their personal and career goals. Dr Harris is single, resides in Dinwiddie County and loves to play golf and ride his Harley Davidson.

Richelle Hines is currently the data specialist for Sussex, responsible for all data submissions to state and federal government regarding all student and some teacher reporting.  She is also the manager/system administrator for any application requiring student information to include assessment and testing, Powerschool Student Information System System Administration.  Richelle spent eight years as the data specialist in Sussex County, and 10 years served as a systems analyst with Computer Sciences Corporation for ten years.  Richelle holds a B.S.  in engineering from ODU.  She considers herself a systems analyst and integrator who transitions business functionality to meet systematic processes and concepts.

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The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.