Two Scottsdale schools will receive grants from the state to bring social workers on campus and improve outcomes for students.
Scottsdale Unified School District’s Coronado High School and Tonalea K-8 will each receive a grant as part of the state’s School Safety Program to hire a social worker.
The legislature allocated $20 million to the program in 2019 to help schools hire counselors, social workers and school resource officers.
“One of the greatest wins of the 2019 legislative session was the expansion of Arizona’s School Safety Program, which allocated $20 million of new funding for school counselors, social workers, and school resource officers,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.
SUSD Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard said the district applied for the grant on behalf of all its schools and praised the state for making safety a priority.
“We encourage the Legislature and Governor Ducey to continue addressing the safety and social wellness of our students as a top priority,” Kriekard said at a school board meeting last month.
Still, Kriekard noted the $20 million in available funds only addressed a fraction of the need statewide.
“Ninety-five million was asked for – that’s the need in the state,” Kriekard said.
In October, Hoffman said her department received 896 applications submitted by 284 school districts and charter schools that were requesting funding for a total of 1,100 positions.
According to Hoffman, 40 percent of the total requests were for school counselors, 34 percent were for social workers and about 26 percent were for a school resource officer.
In addition to the school safety grant, Coronado High School was one of just five high schools in the state to receive a grant through the federal Gear program.
“GEAR UP is an innovative, highly-competitive grant program of the U.S. Department of Education, authorized by Congress in 1999 under the Higher Education Opportunity Act to help level the playing field on college access for low-income students,” according to Northern Arizona University, which will partner with Coronado to administer the grant.
GEAR UP programs are now available in 44 states.
The federal government awards six or seven year grants to applicant states, which must match the federal award.
Kriekard said the exact value of Coronado’s grant is not yet known but that it will be worth “hundreds of thousands of dollar a year for seven years.”
Kriekard said representatives from NAU will visit Coronado in January to meet with Principal Amy Palatucci to discuss the specifics of the program, which is designed to improve college readiness among low-income students.
“We foresee that the grant will provide funding for targeted support for students working backwards from senior year to support their academic success, improve attendance, and increase Coronado’s graduation rate,” Kriekard said.
The grant should compliment existing efforts to improve outcomes for students at Coronado.
Palatucci told the Progress there are a number of supports on campus to prepare students for the next step after graduation.
They include including the long-standing Jobs for Arizona Graduates, or JAG program, and the school’s Higher Education Center, which helps families navigate everything from college applications to financial aid.
Palatucci also said the school is introducing pre-AP courses, increasing enrollment in AP courses – which can count for college credit – and bringing colleges like ASU and Scottsdale Community College on campus to meet with students.
The number of students taking AP or dual enrollment courses, which can also count towards college credit, increased by 27 percent at Coronado between 2018 and 2019.