State leaders push funding for ‘out-of-school’ challenges

State political and education leaders visited Chaminade Julienne High School on Friday to learn about the school’s City Connects program, which works to connect students in need with key out-of-school resources.

The visit comes as legislators are considering a new $550 million allocation in the state budget to provide similar “wraparound services” to Ohio schools. That budget has already passed the Ohio House, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted advocated for the plan Friday.

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“We know that additional resources for wraparound services that help students overcome the social-emotional challenges they face is critical to helping them have academic success,” Husted said. “This is the direction Ohio is going educationally.”

Chaminade Julienne Principal John Marshall explained CJ’s City Connects program to Husted, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, state school board Vice President Charlotte McGuire and State legislators Peggy Lehner and Niraj Antani. CJ is partnering with local elementary schools to provide the extra services starting in kindergarten.

Marshall said as much as 67 percent of children’s school performance can be traced to out-of-school factors tied to home life, health, poverty/wealth and other issues. He said if those factors aren’t addressed, learning is difficult.

“City Connects allows us to assess every student’s needs, every year, by every teacher and identify needed resources to remove barriers to learning,” Marshall said. Issues range from student hunger, to transportation problems, undiagnosed eyesight issues and stress/mental health issues.

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DeMaria was impressed with CJ’s efficient use of its resources, and Husted said it looked like the school had made a cultural shift, with all staff involved in the effort. Marshall said CJ has a team of coordinators who oversee the program, and he relies on their knowledge when deciding key in-house staffing decisions, like hiring a full-time nurse and a three-day-a-week mental health professional.

Lehner, chair of the Senate education committee, asked whether implementation of the program would face any different obstacles in public schools.

Jacki Loffer, principal at Our Lady of the Rosary elementary school, said building trust over time has been a crucial part of her program. She said schools such as Dayton Public have more frequent student and staff turnover that can make that a challenge.

Trotwood-Madison schools moved to tackle some of these issues this school year, hiring social workers and using “student encouragers” to work with at-risk students, and “parent engagers” to keep families involved.

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Dayton Public Schools uses wraparound services, especially at its six Neighborhood School Centers, where a community agency, business or nonprofit has partnered with the school. But it would take close to 20 more community partners for every DPS school to have those programs.

“Funding is part of it, but you need community partners and you need to have leaders within the school who are willing to adapt to this kind of change,” Husted said.

Antani expressed hopes that programs like CJ’s could help schools’ chronic absenteeism problems. Lehner said she believes there is solid support for the wraparound services funding in the Senate, which will consider the budget bill in the coming weeks.

“I think the education stuff in the budget is pretty solid,” she said. “I don’t think there are going to be any significant changes. There may be some increases we’re looking for for different things. I think the governor’s request for the poverty-wellness fund is pretty well-supported.”

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