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Students change classes in May 2019 at Massena Central School’s Freshman Academy. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Massena Central School District officials have come up with an improvement plan to address their designation as a targeted district by the state Education Department.

The district was targeted based on a high school subgroup of students with disabilities not meeting the criteria for state assessments, graduation rates and chronic absenteeism.

“We put a committee together, and that committee came up with some recommendations on how to make improvements. They strongly feel this is something that will support the work of improving outcomes for our students. There is a grant we will receive in order to support making these improvements,” Superintendent Patrick Brady told board of education members.

He said one of the committee’s recommendations was to fund a social emotional learning coordinator, a position that was approved by the school board during their meeting. Social emotional learning was identified as one of the top five priorities in the district, and Mr. Brady said they determined that an SEL coordinator was necessary to ensure the goals were monitored and addressed.

He said the individual would “keep their eye on these different at-risk students above and beyond what we try to do now.”

Among the person’s duties would be to serve as chair of the District Trauma Sensitivity Team, and to work to “create a safe, nurturing and respectful learning environment that supports students by fostering emotional and academic skill development.”

The individual would also serve on various building attendance committees to create strategies to increase attendance and decrease in and out of school detentions; meet with students and/or parents to identify specific barriers, needed supports, and provides resources and referrals; and meet with school building leaders and District Trauma Sensitivity Team members to identify students with risk factors.

“They would work on difference attendance committees to create strategies to get kids into school. They would meet with students and their parents to break down some of the barriers of why they’re not coming to school and being successful. This includes some of our special education students,” Mr. Brady said.

In addition, the social emotional learning coordinator would create surveys; coordinate staff professional development on topics such as trauma sensitive strategies, mindfulness, poverty, executive functioning skills or others as it relates to priority SEL needs; and meet with building leaders and counselors to review behavioral data such as office referrals, out of school suspensions and attendance, and identify trends.

The 12-month position would be an additional duty for someone already in the district, and may include some after-school and weekend activities to support children and families. A yearly $4,000 stipend has been set aside from the grant funding, so there is no cost to the district.

Curriculum Director Stephanie Allen had told school board members in July that they were notified in December that the district’s high school students with disabilities subgroup did not perform well in meeting the criteria for state assessments, graduation rates and chronic absenteeism.

She said the state Education Department looks at multiple factors and scores districts from one to four in several categories, with one being the lowest. Massena scored one in those three areas and, although it was for the performance of one high school subgroup, it placed the entire district as a targeted district.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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