Mantua  – Crestwood Local Schools Superintendent Dave Toth received exciting news from the U.S. Department of Education when it agreed to fund a three-year program costing nearly $1 million. The program aims to boost student well-being and achievement.

The district applied for the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Grant in March 2014 and received notice this week that it was awarded approximately $925,000. The district will receive a little more than $300,000 annually for the next three years, beginning with the 2015-2016 school year.

“We applied for this grant because we recognized a trend in student discipline referrals among low socioeconomic students and among those students who were experiencing hardship in the family, including unemployment, divorce, and parents being deployed overseas,” said Toth. “Students’ personal and social needs must be successfully addressed during the key elementary years if they are to succeed in the future.”

The additional funds will allow the district to implement evidence-based youth development curriculum, and contract for additional guidance counselors, a social worker and a group therapist at the Primary and Intermediate Schools.  Currently, one guidance counselor services both the Primary and Intermediate buildings. The district will partner with Portage County-based Children’s Advantage and the Cuyahoga County Educational Service Center to provide the additional staff. The staffing changes will bring the district in-line with the American School Health Association’s recommendation for student-to-counselor ratio.

The district already contracts with Children’s Advantage to provide mental health services. The additional funds from the grant will allow the current contract to focus on middle school and high school needs rather than splitting services among the four buildings.

“This is a significant sum of money for our district and will allow us to directly meet the needs of our students,” Toth said. The district operates on an approximate $20 million annual budget.

Toth explained that in addition to the service providers, the district will implement key curriculum including a K-5 program to promote character development, academic achievement and social-emotional skills and helps reduce disruptive and problem behavior; and programs that further promote web-based learning and physical activity within the schools. Implementation of these programs will occur during the 2015-2016 school year and staff will receive professional development in order to successfully incorporate the new curriculum.

Last year, the district formed an Advisory Council as part of the Crestwood Health and Wellness Program. The council is comprised of the superintendent, principals, curriculum and pupil services director as well as students, parents and representatives from the community. The council will monitor the progress of the program.

The district hopes to continue to fund this program after the grant expires in 2018 with both district funds and by seeking additional funding sources.