Lanett City School’s new coordinator aims to reduce dropouts, improve promotion rates

Published 9:00 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

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In February, Joshua Carter was hired as the new mental health specialist coordinator for Lanett City School system.

The new position aims to reduce dropout rates and increase the promotion rate for kids in third, sixth and ninth grade by reducing absences and suspensions. 

According to the National Association of Mental Illness, 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by the age of 14. Carter works with students across the entire school system to make sure that students graduate to the next grade level.

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“First, we have to identify other keys that we’ll be working with, which would be at-risk kids, kids to have a history of failing grades or repeating grades … In some cases, it’s students diagnosed with disabilities. Also, we’re looking at kids that had a problem with attendance,” Carter said. 

Mental health conditions and substance use have been associated with chronic absence from school, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Other causes for absenteeism include household responsibilities, illness and bullying. Other times, it is simply that they don’t see value in school and nothing stops them from skipping.

Once at-risk students are identified, Carter brings them in for assessment. He then creates an individual plan to meet the needs of the student and family. 

“I wish kids would feel comfortable asking for help whether it be not understanding something or dealing with how to handle emotions,” Carter said. 

Carter graduated from Valley High School in 2004. He received his psychology degree from Alabama State University. 

He began his career with East Alabama Mental Health Center in Opelika. He later worked for the Department of Family and Children Services. 

Most recently, Carter had a position with the Head Start program, which supports children from birth to 5 years old throughout early learning and development and family well-being.

“I just have a passion for working with people to overcome different barriers and obstacles that they’ve been dealing with in life, working with and engaging with the families,” Carter said. “Helping them set goals and come up with plans to accomplish and meet those goals.”

Moving into the newly created role with Lanett City Schools was a smooth transition for Carter. 

“We all work together just make sure they know what other services the kids and families need,” Carter said. “… I’ve been through a different training just to build my toolbox so that I can provide services and resources to families and children that I am beginning to work with.”

The mental health coordinator position helps bring awareness to families about mental health and the resources available within the school system. 

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about mental health,” Carter said. “But it’s something that needs to be talked about and almost normalized so people will feel comfortable talking about it.”