COOS BAY — Students at Coos Bay School's Harding Building are getting a little extra help to graduate.
New graduation coach Gypsy Warrick has spent the summer creating a plan on how to best guide students, many of whom end up at Harding to catch up on credits or had trouble with the typical classroom setting at Marshfield High School.
Her job was created after the district received money through the Oregon Department of Education partnership grant in March.
“Our graduating class this year is smaller than it has been in recent years,” said Superintendent Bryan Trendell in a previous interview. “We are always striving to improve our graduation rates, and the graduation coaches are a big part of that.”
For Warrick, who thinks of herself as a “mom” to her 60 or so kids at Harding, she plans to start her first full school year as a coach to visit with each student.
“Because we're going to be an almost completely project-based school, we want to help the kids design projects around what they are interested in and what they see as their path in life,” Warrick said.
She also plans on visiting with parents to encourage them to be more involved with their children.
“Having support at home is so important,” she said. “I want to show these parents that school is a priority and not a scary place. A lot of the parents are intimidated by school staff and I want to make it an open place where they aren't being jugd, where they can talk to any of us at the school if they need help with their kids. I want these visits to be set as a standard when you come into the school at Harding.”
Warrick will also evaluate each student's academic needs by looking through their transcipts so she can better understand what they need and how fast they need to be pushed in order to keep them on track, or if a student wants to graduate early.
“I will work with students on long and short term goals, looking at their semesters and how much needs to be completed,” she said. “But that's just the beginning of the year.”
Throughout the year, Warrick plans to continue monitoring progress on a weekly basis and checking on student's goals.
“Because they are teenagers, those goals may change frequently, so I want to be on top of knowing if they've changed their mind about things like college,” she said. “If they do, I can redirect their path and find things to help them with financial aid.”
At the Harding Building, there is no guidance counselor to help students prepare for college. Warrick will also take on that role.
On top of that, she is going to strive to facilitate better relationships between students and teachers.
“A lot of kids at this building struggle with authority, so I would be there to mediate between them and the teacher,” Warrick said. “A lot of times, it's hard when kids are disrespectful and teachers get defensive because that's an automatic response. If I can find the root cause for why the child is acting like that, because there is usually something going in their life, then sharing that with the teacher will help disarm them and we can work things out.”
Warrick said that at first glance when there are 50 to 60 students, and half of them are disrespectful and calling teahers names, “it can be overwhelming for our teachers.”
“I will find time to dig into reasons behind the behavior, time teachers don't have, and once I find out why they are acting like that, I can help change the approach or the way the teacher speaks, which may be what they hear at home and it's terrifying to them,” Warrick said. “Anything could help.”
Pressure comes at the end of the school year for Warrick to make sure seniors and other students have finished their goals and credits required to continue on, or to graduate.
“I will nag, I will be the mom they need to make sure they get everything done and turned in,” she said. Shortly after being hired in March, Warrick took advantage of the brief time between then and graduation to push more students towards the finish line. Warrick hit the ground running and within the limited time managed to pull seniors through to graduation who otherwise might not have made it.
“I have a teenage daughter at Marshfield and a 12-year-old and I'm on top of their homework, texting them to check on this and that, and I'm providing them the support that these other kids need,” Warrick said in a previous interview. “These students need someone there to remind them and make sure they are responsible and learning how to be adults, so I've stepped in.”
She had also downloaded the Remind App that allows her to text all of her seniors at once and when they reply it's to her rather than to the group.
“I text reminders to them all the time, check their credits and transcripts and help them get things done and check on essential skills they need to graduate. I step in and do whatever I need to get them out the door.”
“A lot of students come from a culture where school isn't important so we make sure they want to be here,” Warrick said. “Next year we are implementing a warm and welcoming space so they want to stay and if I notice they are missing, I will call to check on them and if they need a ride to school, we have the ARK Project just downstairs. They will send a cab or pick them up in their new car.”
Though she has enjoyed her summer to spend time with her own children, Warrick said she has missed the kids at school and helping them.
“We're looking for a good year,” she said.