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SSHS grant working, says director

Posted: August 18, 2011 2:56 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2011 5:00 a.m.

During the 2010-11 fiscal year, 688 Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SSHS) grant services were provided to 597 Kershaw County School District (KCSD) students. Those 597 students had more unexcused absences, disciplinary referrals for simple and aggravated assault, as well as more out-of-school suspensions than the overall student body who did not receive any services, according to SSHS Project Director Kevin Rhodes.

“That tells me that we’re targeting the right students. This is a very good thing -- this is very positive that we are, in most cases, serving students that we need to serve to make an impact,” Rhodes said during Tuesday’s Kershaw County Board of School Trustees meeting. “And 597 students are enough to fill eight of the largest school buses that we have in our fleet. That’s a lot of students getting these services.”

From a national perspective, Rhodes told the board, Kershaw County has enjoyed a high level of national recognition since receiving the $5.7 million grant in 2009, including two opportunities to address national meetings and an upcoming invitation to attend a national school-based mental health symposium in Charleston.

Locally, he said, approximately 42 Kershaw County residents have been hired to help implement the grant’s initiatives. Furthermore, grant activities are now active in all 20 of the school district’s elementary, middle and high schools, including the Continuous Learning Center (CLC).

This year, Rhodes said, he was pleased to learn that more than 215 first- through eighth-grade students were served through three summer programs -- double last year’s peak enrollment.

“And we took a look at their MAP scores at the end of last summer when they came back in the fall, and compared them to their peers who had not attended one of these programs,” he added. “And not only did these kids not regress, in many cases they progressed over the summer.”

In addition to the three afterschool programs currently in operation, early childhood services are now being provided through First Steps of Kershaw County, digital bus cameras upgrades have been installed in all 104 of the school district’s buses, and school-based mental health counselors have given 143 prevention/intervention services to students.

Also, 97 students have been served through Transitions and Truancy Services, 36 mentors have been paired with a mentee through the mentoring, 55 students have completed the Juveniles Experiencing Excellence Program (JEEP), and 17 Department of Juvenile Justice students have been served through the grant’s Bridge program.

Of the 17 Bridge students, one received a GED, two awarded high school diplomas, and four enrolled in college and received scholarships.

“Bridge is a program that takes DJJ kids and transitions them back into their community, back into their schools, back into their home environments,” he said. “Obviously, if you’re 15, 16, 17 years old and you’re behind the fence at Broad River Road, you’ve got some tough circumstances, and the Bridge has to be an intensive sort of wrap-around service model.”

With the new school year already underway, Rhodes said he was pleased to report they “hit the ground running” at 100 percent implementation.

However, one of his biggest challenges going into the new year, he added, will be figuring out a way to “connect the dots.”

“We’ve got to figure out a way to take a kid who is an at-risk student, and find what services are appropriate for that child. For example, if a kid attends an afterschool program, how would we identify that that kid has a mental health issue that needs to be addressed through grant services? Or if we have a child who is going to matriculate out of an afterschool program, might that child benefit from a dedicated mentor?” Rhodes said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to make those connections. Dr. Morgan was very clear to me that my next professional challenge is to figure out a way to connect those dots.”

In other news, the board approved a policy detailing the appropriate use of technology and social networking by district employees.

The board also received tentative agendas through December. Topics to be discussed include SEAGUL, countywide choice, special education, i-CAN technology purchase recommendations and school uniforms.

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