Monday, April 22, 2024

Rashad Gattison tapped as Port City United director

Rashad Gattison (Courtesy NHC)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A new leader for Port City United has been named after former director Cedric Harrison was let go from the role earlier in the year.

Rashad Gattison, who was hired in March 2022 as PCU Connect supervisor, will take over May 2, the county announced Wednesday.

READ MORE: Dismissal letter for PCU’s Cedric Harrison cites list of performance issues, misuse of county property

Gattison has served as interim director of PCU since February.

“Over the last year, Rashad has shown a commitment to helping others through innovative practices, which has helped Port City United in its mission to create a community that is equitable, healthy and safe for everyone,” New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet said in a press release.

A Wilmington native, Gattison has worked in New Hanover County Schools, Coastal Horizons, Communities in Schools of Cape Fear and the Brigade Boys & Girls Club.

“His steadfast leadership and deep roots have helped PCU make inroads quickly, which has resulted in great successes,” Coudriet added in the release.

Port City United started last year, with a $40-million, four-year plan intended to curb community-wide violence particularly in youth.

Since, Gattison and the PCU team have hosted numerous outreach events for the community, including Fresh Chance Friday, which connected 400 people with job opportunities, resources and legal services for potential record expungement.

PCU also employs Spanish-speaking team members to help with translation services in courtrooms and assist with other needs for the Hispanic community.

Since PCU Connect call center launched last June, it has responded to more than 7,000 calls, helping with financial, employment, housing and judicial needs.

Taking over Gattison’s role as Connect supervisor will be LaMeisha Green, who stepped in as Connect’s interim supervisor in February. She started with PCD in May 2022 and previously had served as a New Hanover County 911 telecommunicator. 

“LaMeisha has shown tremendous leadership since beginning with PCU and is the right person to continue the connect center’s important work,” Gattison said in a release. “One of the internal goals of PCU is to provide our team with the skills they need to grow and a strong foundation to succeed. I’m really glad to see that happen here and to watch LaMeisha excel.”

Gattison presented an update to commissioners earlier this month about the successes Port City United experienced in its first year. This includes hiring team members that community members can trust, who have ties in particular to families or people who are deemed high-risk in Wilmington.

The team responds to shootings in a 24-to-36-hour timeframe to help deal with trauma that violence can create, including supporting families through grief. Gattison said the team has made 257 interventions.

PCU builds relationships through events as well, having been a part of nearly 40 and dedicating more than 3,000 hours in community engagement.

Most importantly, they try and thwart violence at the “front-end” by working with school-aged students. PCU partners with Community in Schools, Leading Into New Communities, and Voyage for high-performing academic success and offer wraparound services to seven schools, including Snipes, Freeman, Williston, New Hanover High, DC Virgo, Gregory and Forest Hills.

Community resource coordinators work with students in all grades, though 45% are elementary-aged pupils, the team reported to commissioners. They provide academic interventions, behavior interventions, and social-emotional services, and perform daily and weekly check-ins. They also work with kids and parents who have been incarcerated.

“They make sure all the kids are where they need to be and are on top of their class work,” a high school student told commissioners at the meeting April 17.

Principal Phillip Sutton of New Hanover High School also praised PCU’s programming for helping make the school safer.

“You responded immediately last year after our Aug. 30 event,” Sutton said, referring to the school shooting that took place at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. The incident was the impetus to start PCU.

“This school year since the implementation of Port City United, we’ve seen a decrease about 2% in aggressive incidents at New Hanover High School compared to the year before,” Sutton said, referring to fighting, assaults and bullying. “I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s significant.”

He added three areas have been strengthened in regards to the 2% decrease: proactive communication, resources and relationships.

“PCD has done that for us,” he said. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know and the trust with our students and community wasn’t there before.”

Sutton said 71% of students in New Hanover High said they would go to a trusted adult to get help if they needed it — “not an administrator, not a police officer.”

The PCU coordinators are filling that role, he added, with assistance that goes beyond in-school hours but after school too.

“It is really a village that helped raise all of us,” commissioner Jonathan Barfield said at the meeting. “Fresh Chance Friday was tremendous and they way you stepped in and helped Wilmington Housing Authority residents was great. I appreciate what you’re doing for the community.”

Gattison echoed the sentiments for his team in a release from the county Wednesday, expressing pride in the resources they have built to connect in deeper ways with the community.

“It is an honor to be a small piece of our success so far,” he said. “I’m grateful for the trust that is being placed in me to lead this department and look forward to seeing what we can achieve through collaboration in the future.”

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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