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Happy New Year

Believe it or not, it is 2012. With the start of the new year here at CIS we are saying goodbye to a close friend, Yvette Hanshaw who has helped CIS grow into 38 schools in seven school districts. She accepted the position of Director of Development for the College of Communication at TCU. We already miss her smiling face.

We are also saying hello to a new school, Sharrod Elementary School in Arlington. We are interviewing now to find the perfect social worker for that school.

As we returned from the holiday break, we also learned that two of our staff members are now engaged! Congratulations to Myra McGlothen and Alejandra Morado…….2012 will be a big year for the two of you.

One last thought – In our December e-newsletter we asked for help to restore the right ear for one of our elementary school students who was born without the outside part of her ear. Her family needed about $5,000 to move the process forward and we received generous gifts that moved them closer to that goal. Members of the extended CIS family always seem to come through when we need them. Thank you for your generosity.

Have a happy and prosperous new year.

-Mike Steele, President & CEO

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Part of My Job

My name is Mandi Pickens and I am a 3rd year returning CIS Project Manager in an elementary school. While the summer break has been nice (who am I kidding?), I am ready to see my students again! I guess it’s safe to call this the “final countdown” before they arrive on Monday.

During the last 2 weeks, I have participated in extensive training; learned important techniques for interacting with students and families; reviewed policies and procedures; been taught how to complete my paperwork; stapled enrollment packets; and decorated my office…

But I have NOT seen my students! There is a void in my heart and the anticipation of finally being with them is growing by the second! I know that Monday morning, when I walk into the cafeteria during breakfast, I will be surrounded by little people who I have missed during the last 2 months! They will smile ear-to-ear and be excited to get back to school. I fully expect to be greeted with an instant overflow of details about their summer breaks. Do you know how fun that is? I cannot wait to hear their stories!

That’s part of my job!

I consider it an incredible privilege to be part of my students’ lives. To be honest, there are some students I have worried about. Some faces I’m afraid I might not see when school starts back. Other faces that will carry the pain of a difficult summer. As a social worker, I have to face the reality that I get to be part of my students’ lives for a season: some longer than others, some happier than others.

That, too, is part of the job.

I guess that’s why I am so ready for Monday. I long to look my kids in the eyes and know that they are safe, each and every one of them! I want the chance to remind them that I care about them and believe in them! I want the chance to help them grow, lead, achieve and believe in themselves this school year.

That’s my job! What an honor.

-Mandi Pickens, CIS Project Manager


Tarrant County in 2030: What does this mean for education?

Every 10 years, the U.S. government sets out to count all of the people in the country. This helps our leaders to ensure that money is allocated fairly – that there are the right roads, houses, infrastructure  and most importantly the right number of schools. The 2010 census showed that Tarrant County was the fastest growing county in Texas at 25% (Fort Worth outpaced all major metro areas in Texas at 38.6%). This growth rate was driven by growth in the Hispanic population but saw increases in African American and Asian population as well. This resulted in more multicultural cities and suburbs. On the whole, a lot to be excited about.

But there is something else to these numbers. More than 28.3% of the population is under the age of 18 (meaning that they are school aged and need public education). Additionally, 8.5% of the population is under the age of 5 – meaning that they need preschool and Head Start education to get them onto the right track. Some other notes:

  • 21.2% of children live in poverty
  • Black and Hispanic children are three times more likely to live in poverty that white children
  • 13% children receive SSI
  • 29% drop out of high school
  • 59% of Tarrant County’s students are economically disadvantaged (and that is rising as a result of the recession)

The bottom line is that there are a lot of school aged students in Tarrant County who need help. Many of them are at risk of being left behind. Their economic disadvantage translates into lower TAKS passage rates especially in math and reading. Getting left behind in school leads to increased dropouts. And high school dropouts are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as graduates thus repeating the cycle.

One of the key ideas to this census data is that with this growth comes more students just like the students we are currently serving in Tarrant County. Students who will need help to stay in school and be successful. Our state’s economic prosperity depends on an educated and effective work force. Our state’s liberty depends on having responsible citizens.

What will Tarrant County look like in 2030? Undoubtedly it will be larger, more diverse, more non-English speaking, and more spread out geographically. By 2030, estimates show that Texas will add 13.6 million people – the equivalent of adding another DFW, San Antonio, Houston and Corpus Christi.

What will that mean for education?

– Stacy Landreth Grau, Ph.D.
CIS Board Member
Neeley School of Business and Texas Christian University
Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Marketing

(Sources: Texas Kids Count (; 2007-2009 American Community Survey, US Census Bureau; Texas Education Agency; Intercultural development research association; US Census Bureau; Texas County Profile by the County Information Project, Texas Association of Counties; Looming Boom: Texas Through 2030 by James P. Gaines January 2008)

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How Texas Stacks Up

Lest anybody think that when a student drops out of school the community is done with them… look at the link below. Anybody care to connect some of the dots between dropout rates and how Texas stacks up? Share your thoughts?

-Mike Steele, CEO

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Excitement & Anticipation

Now that it’s August, the countdown to the start of the new school year has officially begun.  While I know lots of kids are probably dreading retuning to school, I was always one of the (not so cool) ones that looked forward to it.  There’s so much excitement and anticipation of what the year might bring.  I would spend the weeks leading up to the first day of school carefully planning my perfect “first day outfit”, stocking my backpack with pretty new notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils and constantly wondering about the new year: Will my friends and I have the same lunch period?  Will Mrs. Jones be as hard as I’ve heard she is?  Will there be any cute boys in my classes?  Will I make the volleyball team?

Unfortunately for many of the students that our CIS social workers work with, their concerns are slightly different.  A typical CIS student might be wondering, will I be able to get the school supplies that I need?  Will I have breakfast the morning of the first day so that my stomach isn’t growling during class?  Will this be the year that I can finally pass Algebra and go on to the next grade?  Will my mom be able to get the car fixed so that I can have a way to get to school every day?  Will I finally be able to make some friends so that I don’t have to sit at the lunch table alone every day?

When it comes to dealing with these kinds of issues, there’s no time to waste.  The social workers begin working on ways to help our CIS kids overcome various obstacles before the school year even begins.  All of the school staff returned from summer break on Monday and will be spending the next two weeks attending trainings on topics like navigating the Medicaid system, dealing with bullying and preventing teen dating violence.  They will also be learning about and networking with local agencies and community resources that are available to help our students.

The CIS social workers recognize that many students are dealing with obstacles that have a significant impact on school performance and put them at a higher risk of dropping out of school.  It’s the social worker’s job to find ways to help the students and families address those obstacles so that the students can focus on being successful in school.  Finding solutions isn’t always easy, but our social workers have the “whatever it takes” attitude and are constantly motivated by seeing the positive impacts that they can have on the lives of our CIS kids and their families.

I still spend the weeks leading up to the first day of school filled with excitement and anticipation—but now it’s because I can’t wait to see the changes that we can make in our schools and in our students’ lives.

-Alison Sanburg, LMSW

Program Director

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What is the real economic impact of losing 1/3 of our students before graduation?

The research says that each student who leaves school without a diploma costs taxpayers about $270,000 in lost wages, lost tax revenue, increased job retraining, increased public assistance costs, increased incarceration costs, etc. Over 10,000 students left TarrantCountyschools last year without a diploma. Simple multiplication yields a cost to taxpayers of $2.7 billion for this one class of students. If that is not bad enough, what is the cost of constantly growing the number of adults in our community without high school diplomas? What does this say to CEOs considering Tarrant Countyas their corporate home? If no adult in a family has ever graduated, what are the educational expectations for their children? What effect does breaking this cycle have on family trees? If evidence-based solutions are available, can we afford to continue missing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for our children to break the cycle?

– Mike Steele, President and CEO

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Summer Vacation is Coming to an End

There are ads in the paper and commercials on TV for school supplies already. OMG! Where has July gone? Soon the new CIS staff will be attending Project Operations (training for new CIS staff) and former staff will return a week later. This means the Program Directors (that’s me!) are working on training so everyone will be up to par for the next school year.

I am really excited for staff to return and new staff to start with CIS. There are many trainings we have lined up for them to attend. The trainings teach the staff new techniques to use with their students and families and also give them resources to use as well. These trainings ultimately help ensure the staff will be able to meet the needs of their schools. Some of these trainings are an agency fair, solution focused therapy, parent involvement, etc.  Every school is very different and relies on the Program Manager (PM) in different ways. Likewise every PM is different and relies on me in different ways. I am excited to see how returning staff continue to develop their role as the social worker and are hopefully less timid then when they first started. I am also excited to have new staff start with CIS. It is a challenging time for both PD and PM but it is a great feeling for me to see them grow and learn the ropes of CIS. It is an exciting time to show them their schools and help them mold in to the best social worker they can be for their schools. The feeling of seeing your new school and meeting the people you work with is similar to those nerves you had on the first day of school as a young child. My role is to help the new PM feel comfortable and knowlegdable going in to their new school. Supervising staff is fun and keeps every school year completely different, but I am very excited to begin this process!

All this being said, newspaper ads and TV commercials for school supplies serve as a reminder that summer is ending and another school year is about to begin! But I am ready for all the stress, anxiety, and fun to begin because I know in the end we will be transforming students’ lives and making it better for them and their families. It’s all worth it!

Jade Taylor, LMSW
Program Director

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My Experience as a Program Director

Social work is an interesting profession. There is much to be said about a person that devotes their life to children and families in need. The most frequent question I get asked is “What does a school social worker do exactly?” Honestly it depends on the school level the social worker is placed to be able to answer that question.

I began my career at CIS as a Project Manager (PM) in an elementary school where I had a case load of 90. I worked very closely with the children’s families, held many self esteem and social skills groups (around 13) and opened my office to individual counseling throughout the day. Unfortunately at the elementary level there are frequent encounters of abuse, extreme poverty, hunger and family eviction.

After two years of working with CIS, I was able to move up to a Program Director. I have loved the change but it is a different social work perspective. Instead of working closely with the children and getting involved with their lives on a personal level, which is direct practice SW, I am working hard to ensure that the PM’s I supervise are offering the services the students need. Not only to enhance the lives of their kids but to help ensure we are doing what we have contracted with the state to do and correctly. It is more administrative social work.

One of the experiences I have enjoyed the most this year is my learning curve working with a high school program. I was assigned to oversee Polytechnic High School where the school and the particular area of Fort Worth have various problems. Working at the high school level is a big difference; their problems are individually based such as pregnancy, physical/mental health issues, cutting, working to help support their family, drugs and gangs to name a few. I met a lot of great students this year; some struggled more than others and some overcame obstacles I could only dream up.

There was one student in particular that the PM and I met, worked with, guided, and deemed this years “success story.” A student is considered a “success story” when they have overcome situations that would otherwise lead to high school drop out. This student was able to tell her story at our annual celebration luncheon where one of our favorite CIS advocates, Deborah Ferguson, was a keynote speaker. The story touched Deborah’s heart and she felt like her story needed to be told to a larger audience. CIS was asked to share her story for a Channel 5 news segment which will hopefully be aired soon! We filmed at Polytechnic, where she went to school and it was neat to see what goes on behind the scenes. Deborah is such a nice lady and very approachable. When we finished saying our goodbyes we noticed a group of people standing outside. Two ladies pointed to her and yelled “Oh my gosh, It’s the lady from the news!” She gave hugs and was very kind to her fans. It was neat to be able to work with people who are looked up to by so many local residents. We appreciate the relationship we have with Channel 5 news; their belief in us is inspiring.

I want you leave you all with this: If you want happiness for a lifetime – help the next generation.


Ashley Parrish, Program Director