The state Department of Public Instruction chose the Baraboo School District to receive almost $72,000 for mental health services through a two-year grant program.
“(We’re) super excited about this grant,” Director of Student Services Michele Yates-Wickus said at a school board meeting Monday. “So now the work begins.”
While some districts like Baraboo have been notified of their 2019-21 School-Based Mental Health Services Grant awards, DPI spokesperson Benson Gardner said not all allocations have been finalized. Other recipients will be notified in the next week or so.
The Portage Community School District didn’t apply for the grant this year, according to District Administrator Margaret Rudolph. Both Baraboo and Portage applied during the grant’s first round but didn’t get any funds.
Baraboo’s first goal for the grant is to implement a mental health screening tool for students in kindergarten through ninth grade focused on early identification of mental health needs. Yates-Wickus said students likely will be screened in October, with follow-ups and referrals for those determined to need more support.
District Social Worker Taylor Williams said the district will acquire social-emotional learning content for grades K-12 “to promote positive emotional development and resiliency.”
Other goals include improving mental health literacy among students, staff, parents and the overall community through training and educational opportunities — such as suicide prevention training. Yates-Wickus said the grant hopefully will allow the district to develop easier pathways for families to access mental health services and continue working with community service providers.
Both she and District Administrator Lori Mueller credited Williams for working hard on the grant application, including spending time on conference calls with the DPI to improve Baraboo’s chances.
“It’s a super competitive grant, and we really want to give big kudos to Taylor, because she sat in that office and worked diligently on this grant because she wasn’t going to be denied a second time,” Mueller said. “This is such great news for the district.”
A letter from State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor to Mueller dated June 27 informed her that Baraboo had been recommended to receive $71,743. Mueller said Baraboo got “every dollar we asked for.”
“The number of applicants and the amount requested to support student mental health far exceeded the amount allocated for this purpose,” the letter stated. “Considering the intense competition and thorough review process, you should be proud that your application received approval.”
School board Vice President Doug Mering noted that mental health needs will still exist after the two-year grant expires, “and we still will need assistance from the state and federal governments.” Many other districts won’t get the funds they need for these services, he said.
In other action Monday, the Baraboo School Board:
- Authorized hiring Donald Rosene, Jack Young Middle School social studies teacher; Dian Anderson, early childhood special education teacher; Michaela Peasall, Baraboo High School English teacher; Ryan Kizer, BHS English teacher; Dan Pavlue, JYMS social studies teacher; Marlee Bonham, JYMS Project Lead the Way teacher; Regina Hittman, East/West Elementary art teacher; and Mary Borden Uhalt, elementary special education teacher.
- Accepted resignations from Jamie Breunig, North Freedom Elementary School kindergarten teacher, and Stacie Saph, JYMS language arts teacher.
- Approved an overnight field trip for the Future Farmers of America officer team to go on a leadership retreat in Sparta from Monday through Wednesday next week.
- Approved the 2019-20 Student Academic Standards by a unanimous roll-call vote.