Fort Cherry School District and Intermediate Unit 1 will receive state grants aimed at making classrooms safer.
They were among 37 schools in the state to receive Safe Schools Targeted Grants. These allotments, announced Friday by the state Department of Education, state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, and state Reps. Jesse White, D-Cecil and Pete Daley, D-California, were meant to assist school districts by using “research-based violence prevention and classroom management programs.”
Fort Cherry School District will receive $14,658, while Intermediate Unit 1 will receive $12,000 through the program, which is awarding a total of $479,513 this year. Friday’s announcement came on the heels of the tragic events that unfolded last week in Connecticut.
“Unfortunately, this is a timely issue right now,” White said. “I think one of the things we need to realize is that you can never be too safe, and unfortunately safety costs money.”
White said school districts were struggling to find ways to keep students safe in the face of the nearly $1 billion in education cuts carried out by Gov. Tom Corbett last year.
“Common sense and sharp eyes can get you a long way, but at the end of the day schools need resources. Part of the discussion we need to have, as we’re cutting and cutting, is to ask if we are making the right kind of cuts. We need to be smart about way we need to be spending money,” White said.
Under the Safe Schools program, schools are eligible to receive as much as $15,000 in funding in exchange for creating a comprehensive safe school plan. These strategies are meant to help reduce or prevent violence by creating programs focusing on themes such as conflict resolution, positive behavioral support, classroom management, violence prevention, anti-bullying, intervention and districtwide school safety.
Charles Mahoney, Jr., executive director of Intermediate Unit 1, said the money will help expand the unit’s schoolwide behavioral program.
“Kids misbehaving can become an issue that can outweigh the academic performance level we want them to have,” Mahoney said. “If teachers handle kids in a positive manner through various approaches, students will respond better and also see higher academic performance.”
The Intermediate Unit 1 serves 25 school districts in Washington, Greene and Westmoreland counties and is responsible for overseeing the career and technical training centers in those areas. Western Area Career and Technology Center in Chartiers Township is under the supervision of Intermediate Unit 1.
The behavioral program helps train supervisors at the administration building in Coal Center who then return to their home schools to train the teaching staff.
“I’m a global thinker,” Mahoney said. “We teach staff to be able to garner the positive behavior of the kids. We teach them how you handle that child and do it in a positive manner with positive results instead of just reacting on it.”
Enacted by the state in 1995, the grant program was created to help maintain safety in the classroom but was cut out of the 2009-10 budget. At its height, the program handed out as much as $1.6 million. The program was reinstated last year.
Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said he believed the money was being used to keep schools safe.
“The money was put to good use,” Eller said. “And it will continue to be put to good use. The plans implemented are put into place to help students and educators identify safety concerns and deal with disruptive students and people in the building.”
Fort Cherry officials could not immediately be reached for comment about that district’s plans for the money.