Sunday, March 10, 2002

Educator still there for at-risk students

By John Johnston,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To hear Gail Bailey tell it, there's nothing complicated about the dropout-prevention program she runs at Grant County High School.

        “We're trying to make sure kids know what success is, what it looks like and how you get there.”

[photo] Gail Bailey helps Quantez Smith (left) and Eddie Polly make dessert at her home in Grant County.
(Enquirer file photo)
| ZOOM |
        And more young people are getting there. The school's dropout rate, which was about 9 percent when Ms. Bailey was hired a year ago, has fallen to about 2 percent, she says.

        Ms. Bailey was featured in a Tempo story last June, just as the school year ended. Since then, word has spread about Positive Outcome, the program she designed and runs with Scott Shipp.

        In December, Positive Outcome was named Kentucky's model dropout-prevention program of the year. In January, Ms. Bailey, 46, was guest speaker at the Kentucky Board of Education. Afterward, 15 school superintendents and educators approached her for help in setting up similar programs. And this month she's scheduled to speak at a national dropout-prevention conference in Florida.

        The Air Force veteran and former UPS manager tells audiences that a key to this form of alternative education is keeping young people connected to school, rather than placing them in alternative settings where they might miss out on regular privileges. Providing a caring mentor also is crucial.

        Ms. Bailey is that.

        She and her 15-year-old son, Ross, share an 87-acre ranch home in Grant County with seven boys who have struggled in school and in life. She's their foster mother.

        Those boys are among the 170 students enrolled in Positive Outcome. Success, for many of them, doesn't hinge on going to college. This year, for instance, 12 graduating seniors are headed to the military. Others will take up skilled trades.

        “We help them see they're not losers,” she says. “It doesn't happen in a day. We're just trying to make sure the day they decide to change their life, we're still standing there, and haven't given up on them.”


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