Now that Say Yes Guilford and the national organization Say Yes to Education have made a big announcement about unwinding their current relationship – and the national group is turning leadership of the effort over to the local chapter – there’s a lot of reorganizing for Say Yes Guilford on tap, and those pieces are now quickly falling into place.
Say Yes Guilford Executive Director Donnie Turlington said this week that the first step was taken by unveiling the big news last week and getting students, parents and local leaders up to speed about the changes. He said he felt the local news media did a good job of conveying the most important message: Those now in or entering the program won’t see their scholarships changed. He said his office has been getting a good number of questions about the new structure, but not an excessive number.
“We haven’t been overwhelmed,” he said.
Turlington will be stepping down at an unspecified time, but he said that right now he’s staying on to aid in the transition and to help establish the new local governing board.
“As they say, I’m handing over the baton,” he said.
The Guilford Education Alliance will serve as the interim fiscal administrative agent for Say Yes Guilford, and the new local chapter will be managed by the board of a brand new nonprofit: Guilford PreK-12 Inc.
In the past, boards associated with Say Yes Guilford have been ginormous, but the new local governing board consists of just seven members: Former Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Education Alan Duncan, Assistant Guilford County Manager Clarence Grier, Guilford County Schools Chief of Staff Nora Carr, Executive Director of the Edward M. Armfield Sr. Foundation Mindy Oakley, Weaver Foundation President Kevin Gray, along with David Miller, the past chairman of the High Point Community Foundation and Mildred Poole, a community volunteer who gave the first donation to Say Yes Guilford.
Oakley is now serving as the interim chairman of that board.
“The next step is for the new group – Guilford PreK-12 – to meet in a strategy and planning process,” Turlington said.
He said things on the fundraising side will remain the same for the most part.
“They will chug along the track,” he said.
He also said that, though control is moving from the national group to the local group, the two will maintain a relationship by sharing data and cooperating in other ways.
“Say Yes national is still a great partner,” Turlington said.
Say Yes Guilford is not making public the new agreement. The organization is a private nonprofit rather than government body, so they aren’t subject to the same open records law that governments fall under.
“The agreement itself is not considered public,” Turlington wrote in an email to the Rhino Times, which was seeking a copy of the newly signed agreement between the national and local Say Yes organizations.
While not making the agreement public, they are sharing some aspects of the new arrangement.
For instance, students who graduated from high schools in the Guilford County school system in spring 2018 will keep their eligibility for Say Yes Scholarships – as will all the Guilford County high school graduates who are now attending colleges or universities and receiving Say Yes scholarship money.
The agreement will also enable qualified students who are graduating from Guilford County Schools through spring 2023 access to Say Yes scholarships from more than 100 colleges and universities currently participating in the Say Yes National Higher Education Compact.
Say Yes Guilford scholarships to North Carolina public colleges and universities will remain at the discretion of Guilford Says Yes to Education, which is an independent 501(c)(3) that isn’t an affiliate of Say Yes to Education.
Local officials are hopeful there will be continued community financial support for Say Yes in the future as there has been in the past.
A statement from Say Yes Guilford read, “Raising money for the local scholarship fund remains the responsibility of the local community, and local donors. The local community chapter will continue to be known as Say Yes Guilford until at least June 30, 2023, as long as the community adheres to the terms of the agreement.”
This week Say Yes officials were hard at work letting government officials and community leaders know about the changes.
Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips said he was contacted by a Say Yes Guilford official who asked what questions, if any, he had about the change.
Phillips said he’s interested to see where this new turn takes things. He said more autonomy in the program sounds like a positive but he added that he’s still not sure what role Guilford County government will be asked to play in the coming implementation of the new structure; but he’s certainly open to ideas.
“I hesitate to be anything less than willing to listen,” he said.