Strategies for Student Success 2015 - Page 52

Elementary. Such programs are in keeping with the district’s culture, Ms. Miles said. “We have a lot of professional development and emphasis on meeting kids where they are and building from there,” said Ms. Miles. Through the HEROES program, every school in the district has a master’s-level therapist, as well as a case manager, in addition to school guidance counselors. With HEROES in place, guidance counselors have more time to focus on helping kids in academics and other ways. Concentration of resources is based on the needs of individual schools. An important component of the program is the presence in schools of highly trained school resource officers (SROs). The district’s ten SROs come from the local police department; all are accomplished law enforcement officers, and most have also completed mental health training to identify student needs that aren’t strictly disciplinary. The officers are an integral part of each school’s team. At one JCS school, an SRO was voted top staff member of the year by the entire school staff and PTA, Dr. Wallace said. While funding for these officers was originally provided by the federal SS/HS grant, the Johnson City Police Department now pays for this portion of the HEROES program. JCS began investing in mental health support in the late 1970s, using money from the district’s budget for special needs students. Offerings were expanded over the years when the district was able, eventually reaching expenditures of about $80,000 each year in 2008. The SS/HS grant allowed JCS to build massively on existing programs, spending about $1 million annually on HEROES. 51 “What allowed us to do the big piece was that we started building the small piece. If you start carving out little pieces, you’ll see the benefits and the need, and you can start growing it,” said Dr. Wallace. “We’re just reaching the tip of the iceberg on providing services and support to schools. Look at the Maslow model. If you’re not meeting basic needs first, the rest won’t happen.” For parent Anne Godfrey, JCS’s blend of high academic expectations and strong student support adds up to a district that has served her family well. “They aren’t afraid to expect excellence from the students and have put the tools in place to make that happen. They’ve also created such a warm, supportive environment,” Ms. Godfrey said. “Students feel comfortable stepping out of their comfort zones and trying something new. That’s where the growth occurs.”