Say Yes Guilford, a program that promised universal college scholarship help for graduates of Guilford County schools, hit a giant hurdle in 2017 when program leaders realized that Say Yes had radically overpromised what it could deliver given its finances. That greatly upset many parents and students who had based their residency decisions and college choices on the Say Yes promises.

Say Yes apologized and then laid low for a long time; however, on Thursday, Nov. 15, Say Yes began a new effort to open lines of communication with the Guilford County Board of Commissioners – a group that’s been highly skeptical of Say Yes in the past.

At a board work session on Thursday, Nov. 15, former Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Education Alan Duncan, who serves on the board of the new Say Yes Guilford, said the group was interested in working in a coordinated effort with the county.

Duncan told the commissioners that, starting on July 1, 2018, Say Yes had moved to a local control model, rather than the previous model closely connected with the well known national Say Yes program.

“As you will recall, the scholarship part of this got off the ground and had a hiccup or two – or perhaps even three,” Duncan said.

He also said the new program is financially sustainable and is focused on helping students with the greatest need.

He said Say Yes officials felt it was important to keep the commissioners informed as they progressed with a new two-year business plan under the revamped structure.

Duncan added that Say Yes Guilford has hired a search firm to help find a new CEO/executive director by March of next year.

According to Duncan, Say Yes Guilford has selected a new set of 12 schools to test added services that help students excel. One goal is to have students reading at a higher proficiency level and another is to increase the number of workforce ready students coming out of the county’s school system.

“We’ve also began to rebuild the Say Yes brand,” Duncan said.

He added that there are a lot of good things happening, but many people remember the not so good stories and the problems associated with Say Yes.

Duncan said he and other Say Yes board members weren’t before the commissioners to seek financial help from the county.

“We’re not asking for any money right now – zero, nothing,” he said.

Instead, Duncan said, he wanted the new Say Yes and Guilford County to realign their resources for the benefit of the students.

“The first conversation should not be about money,” Duncan said.

Several commissioners joked at the work session that Duncan wasn’t asking for money right now, but, they said, the “now” was the key part of that statement.