Greenfield High School has won a $75,000 grant for programs designed to keep students engaged in their education through a safe and supportive school environment.
GHS is one of 56 high schools in 19 school districts throughout Wisconsin that are sharing $3.8 million in federal grant money designated for these efforts. GHS will use its money to develop and implement programs designed to promote a positive school climate and decrease disciplinary referrals, according to Greenfield’s Director of Educational Services Todd Bugnacki. The funds will be targeted towards programs and activities that focus on school safety, school environment, student engagement, and increased capacity for making data-driven decisions.
Funds from the grant will also support training teachers in ways to create a more positive atmosphere in the hallways, without punishment of students.
“Creating a school environment that supports positive behavior is an important part of this grant program,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers in a statement. “A solid foundation of safety and respect will help more students engage in their education so they graduate ready for the workforce or further education.
“We simply must do a better job of providing supports for the significant numbers of students who fall through the cracks and fail to graduate. We must help all students find a path to school success.”
Evers said the funding comes at an important time as federal and state budget cuts resulted in the loss of more than 80 percent of the funds schools previously received through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for drug and violence prevention programs.
Participating schools and districts were chosen for the grant program based on high needs, such as large numbers or high rates of students being suspended or expelled for drug- or weapon-related incidents, the DPI said. According to Bugnacki, Greenfield’s grant application was approved because of the number of students that participated in the Wisconsin Online Youth Risk Behavior Survey in March of 2011 and school discipline data that had earlier been submitted to DPI yielded a school safety score that qualified GHS for additional federal funding over the next three years.
According to the Wisconsin Information for Successful School guide, during the 2009-10 school year, GHS had 11 weapon/drug related incidents per 1,000 students that resulted in a suspension or expulsion. The state average was 14.7.
Bugnacki noted that until recently, all Wisconsin school districts shared funds made possible by the Safe and Supportive Schools Entitlement, or Title IV. Now, Districts must apply for the grant.
“The School District of Greenfield took advantage of an opportunity to procure federal funds to improve its learning environment,” Bugnacki said.
Among the programs and services the grant is helping to support are the implementation of the Positive Behavioral Intervention System; support and transition opportunities for freshmen and new students; individual learning plans and methods to identify struggling students; plans to strengthen family and community involvement, and classroom instruction to support and enhance conditions for learning. GHS includes anti-bullying lessons in the instructional curriculum and is bringing anti-bullying activist and bullying survivor Jodee Blanco to speak to students and community in March, Bugnacki said.
During the first year of the four-year grant, the DPI enhanced data collection tools and helped safe and supportive schools grant partners identify local needs. Grant funding for the remaining three years of the project will be dedicated to implementing strategies to create safe and supportive schools.
Data collected each year will be compared to baseline figures to determine which schools experienced positive trends in student safety measures, lower alcohol and drug use, increased student engagement, and an improved sense of belonging. Evaluation results will be used to identify successful strategies and help move the Safe and Supportive Schools grant beyond project participants into other high schools statewide.