An Education Task Force is in its inception phase
under the direction of the Healthy Communities Partnership, a
collaboration of organizations and churches designed to improve
health and the quality of life in local communities.
"There are several factors that contribute to this problem, which
makes it very difficult for one organization to handle. That is
where the need of the Education Task Force comes in," says Wade
Kaesebier, staff accountant at J.M. Abbott & Associates who helped
conceive the task force. "The task force will work on getting the
right groups of people involved and necessary resources to approach
this problem from all angles."
The concept behind the new task force was actually born in the
Lincoln-Logan County Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Academy.
Members of one of the groups were moved by an eye-opening newspaper
article that showed Lincoln's dropout rate among the highest in the
state. Kristin Lessen, executive director of Healthy Communities
Partnership, happened to be at the academy graduation where
Kaesebier, now a task force co-chair, and others presented their
"It's kind of exciting how it all came about. We haven't added a
task force for at least six or seven years," Lessen says. "It's also
fascinating how all the task forces intertwine, and this new one is
a perfect fit."
For instance, she says, issues of teen pregnancy, alcohol, drugs
or domestic abuse -- all task force issues -- might be contributing
to dropout rates.
And those local rates, which exceed the state average, can
contribute to other societal problems such as crime, poverty and
unemployment, says Heidi Browne, events coordinator for the chamber
and co-chair of the new task force.
"Those of us who are directly involved in the field of education
are aware of these numbers and concerned about the effects these
dropouts will have, not only to themselves but to our community,"
says Jean Anderson, regional superintendent of schools for Logan,
Mason and Menard. "It is gratifying, as well as encouraging, that
the Healthy Communities Partnership believed the idea of an
education task force was worth their support and that the task force
members themselves are dedicated to addressing the issue."
She would like to see the task force address contributing issues
such as economic trends, perceptions regarding employment in the
community, increased state graduation academic requirements and
truancy that might be stumbling blocks for children who ultimately
give up on school.
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Browne would like to see the task force help educate the community
about the problem, while drawing on its support. She is also
interested in seeing efforts begin earlier than high school.
"Studies have shown that the potential for a high school dropout
can be seen in early elementary school years, due to the attendance
record and relationship between school and home," Browne says.
"Families today face obstacles that are not often brought to the
attention of the school. A goal of the task force will be to
encourage open lines of communication between schools and families,
alleviating some of the obstacles preventing school attendance and
allowing them to be addressed before they reach a critical point."
Like other Healthy Communities Partnership task forces, this one
will link many existing programs together for more impact. Some of
those programs are handled by organizations such as Rural Family
Services, the Rutledge Youth Foundation, Catholic Social Services,
Department of Children and Family Services, and Sojourn. It is
Browne's goal to also involve the city council, county board,
business leaders, law enforcement and colleges.
"This task force will place value on education and graduation in
our communities and work to create and maintain programs that will
work to keep students in school with support from the community,"
[Text from file received from