Thursday, April 25, 2024

GISD implements Capturing Kids’ Hearts district wide

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The Granbury Independent School District board of trustees voted to implement the professional development program Capturing Kids’ Hearts in each of its elementary schools during a regularly scheduled meeting March 25.

Capturing Kids’ Hearts is a program that equips professionals in K-12 education to implement transformational processes focused on social-emotional wellbeing, relationship-driven campus culture and student connectedness, according to the program website.

The program was previously implemented in GISD’s secondary campuses in April 2023, with Stacie Brown, director of curriculum and instruction, advocating for CKH in the hope it would strengthen relationships between teachers and students.

“Staggering statistics from the CDC, the APA — American Psychological Association — and the Office of the Surgeon General show that recent National Youth Surveys have shown an alarming increase in the prevalence specifically of certain mental health challenges that our young people are facing,” Brown said in the April 2023 school board meeting. “All of the research points to the power of connectedness and fighting against those things.”

In reading the memo affiliated with the program last year, Brown added that Capturing Kids’ Hearts “trains teachers, staff and administrators overarching skills to use in helping to develop self-management with our students, high performance classrooms, using team building skills and social contracts, techniques for dealing with conflict, negative behavior and issues with disrespect."

When the program’s training is combined with a systemic approach, Brown explained, the research-based process improves five big indicators of school performance — fewer discipline referrals, improved attendance, higher student achievement, lower dropout rates and higher teacher satisfaction.

As CKH has already proved successful in Granbury Middle School, Acton Middle School, Granbury High School and STARS Accelerated High School’s Behavior Transition Center, Brown recommended the trustees approve the CKH contract district-wide.

“We did some preliminary data research . . . based upon the out-of-school suspension, in-school suspension, partial days, half days, full days, etc. there has been between 25% to 50% decrease in our discipline referrals at our secondary campuses since this was implemented,” Brown said, during Monday’s meeting. “I also got some feedback from our principals. Our principals wanted to highlight the interactions specifically with the classroom teachers. The use of affirmations and specific activities and skills that are done helped to build an atmosphere of extended trust with and between students. So, this goes beyond just having our teachers being part of relationships with our students — this is the process of developing relationships between our students as well.”

Brown explained there has also been a “mindful focus on accountability” in the principals getting to know their students.

“CKH provided tools to help support teachers with new ideas for making sure we have a format of culture building and maintenance for our staff and our stakeholders,” she said.

The initial implementation for the CKH elementary service agreement will cost the district $276,750, while the renewal for the secondary service agreement will cost $54,700, resulting in a combined total of $331,450 overall.

Before the agenda item was addressed in the meeting, a couple of speakers voiced their concern over the cost of the program.

Lisa McDermott asked if the CKH training would be an “effective use of district resources.”

"The overall cost of the program is $331,450,” she said. “Have there been any benefits with the current program of secondary schools? Is there enough benefit to warrant spending another $276,750 to implement it in the elementary schools?”

McDermott also asked if the training was a “necessity,” as many of the skills taught in the training include good character, relationship building and modeling good behavior.

“Are Granbury ISD employees currently incapable of building meaningful and productive relationships with students and colleagues?” she asked. “Do Granbury ISD educators currently lack the ability to model positive behaviors? One can only conclude that the superintendent and this board believe current employees lack these desired skills and thus require this training.”

Todd Daniels said that through his research, he found that CKH training only takes place two days in the summer and asked where the money was coming from to fund the program.

"My question would be: where's the money coming from? Are you getting some kind of grant? If you're getting a grant, I want to know that this is measurable,” Daniels said. “What my due diligence provided me is that it's basically an SEL and diversity training program. We don't need that. Staff doesn't need that, the kids don't need that, and $276,000 is a lot of money for a two-day gig. I think it's a waste of money, and I think you should reconsider it.”

In addressing the concerns expressed by Daniels and McDermott, Superintendent Jeremy Glenn asked Brown if she could discuss the budget used to fund the CKH program.

Brown explained that the CKH program is funded by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant that was given to the district to assist with the COVID-19 impact.

"The grant itself is spent on those things that we see some concerns with, so it does help to ensure interventions are put in place to respond to our students, for not only their well-being, but also the impact that has on their academics,” Brown said. “When you feel seen, heard and safe, you can focus on math, reading and language arts.”

Glenn then asked Brown rhetorically what would happen if the district chose not to expend those funds, and if they could spend the ESSER grant on anything they wanted.

Brown explained that the grant is written to specifically provide relief in mental health and the money must only be used to purchase programs that can support those efforts. She added if the funds are not used, they will be distributed back to the government.

“Essentially, to answer the question that was brought up in open forum tonight, these are federal funds,” Glenn said. "We applied to the grant, the federal government said, ‘Yes, you can have it if you spend it on these programs and these programs only. If you choose not to expend it on these programs, we're going to take the funds back, and if you do anything else with these funds, we're going to charge you for it and we're going to take our money back.’ So, we looked at all the programs, we got teacher input, we determined what was best practice, and we tried to address the real need among students in Granbury, so we implemented Capturing Kids’ Hearts, a research-based program that our teachers and administration looked at and said, ‘We support that program. That's good for kids.’”

Board Vice President Courtney Gore explained that in the district’s strategic planning meetings, an accountability measure was put in place to track the data from CKH.

“We have actual accountability measures built in to make sure that this program is being implemented the way it should be, and it's being streamlined across the district,” Gore said.

Board Secretary Billy Wimberly also asked Brown if she viewed CKH as an anti-bullying program. She responded, “Absolutely.”

"Because of the strategies that are implemented specifically in student-to-student relationships, we've had the basic training at our secondary campuses," Brown said. “They will then go into a phase where they are doing some more things with our students and the peer-to-peer relationships and leading forward. They call it, ‘CKH leadership,’ which is students actually working with other students on the way things are getting done here. We go a little deeper, a little wider, and specifically, to target relationships which we see as the kind of solution for bullying and being connected.”

Gore then made a motion to adopt the Capturing Kids’ Hearts professional development contract for all elementary schools. The motion passed 6-1, with Place 3 Trustee Melanie Graft voting in opposition.