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Originally published: 2014-01-16 17:40:21
Last modified: 2014-01-16 18:47:41

School board discusses Sold Out NC program

by Allison Haver

In December, Watauga County Board of Education members expressed surprise when Sold Out NC, a youth drug and alcohol abstinence program, was not invited back to Watauga High School for the current 2013-2014 school year.

According to the school board's minutes from a Dec. 9 meeting, board members were not aware that the program had been discontinued.

Looking for answers, the board listened to WHS Principal Marshall Gasperson and Paul Holden, the director of student services for Watauga County Schools, during its Jan. 13 board meeting.

Holden and Gasperson said that valuable instruction hours being taken away from students was the main concern and reason behind discontinuing the program.

"It wasn't a critique of the program," Gasperson said. "It would have to be an extremely star-studded, proven-data type of thing from this point on to take kids out of classroom instruction."

Gasperson did offer a solution. He said he would be willing to provide security and a place for rent on the high school campus after normal school operating hours or on Saturdays for the Sold Out NC program to take place.

Although interim WCS Superintendent David Fonseca pointed out that the school system utilizes the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, board member Debra Hodges still expressed concern that there were not enough programs for high school students that continued DARE's message during a time when youths might be subjected to more pressures to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

"We need to be making sure we are doing all we can to serve our students," Hodges said. "There should be reinforcement throughout the high school and even middle school years."

Board Chairman Lee Warren also expressed concerns, and asked why Sold Out NC was not the type of program any school system would want and why the program was allowed to present last year, but refused this year.

Fonseca said the decision was not an assessment of the program, and that it was up to the principal of each school to determine whether or not the program matches the need of the school at a particular time.

Holden, referencing the 45-minute Sold Out NC pre-prom assembly that happens in the spring and then follows up and engages with students through social media, said that programs that do not follow up and engage with students face-to-face are not as effective as those that do.

"When it comes to substance abuse, research shows 'one-and-done programs' are not the most effective program," Holden said. "The better relationship with students, the better the outcomes."

Patrick Williamson, the student member of the school board, said that a program that engaged students to be more involved and to collaborate with their peers would be more productive and effective use of instructional time.

No vote on the matter was taken.

Roman Gabriel, president of the  Sold Out NC program, who was absent from the  meeting, said on Thursday that the board had not contacted him yet on the matter.

"I have left a voicemail with a board member, so I don't want to comment until I talk with them," he said.