The Biddeford School Department was recently awarded a Maine Department of Education grant in the amount of $447,582 to support the expansion of restorative practices for all students, but most especially for so-called "system-involved youth." The funds will be used to support a variety of resources to advance this critical work, including the hiring of two additional social workers, and securing contracts with community partners, including APEX and the Restorative Justice Institute, to name a few.
There were four grantees who were successful in their application, and the Biddeford School Department received the grant's highest rating.
"The team is thrilled that we were successful in our application for this critical resource," said Assistant Superintendent Chris Indorf. "We're incredibly proud of the work that we've done in recent years to support at-risk youth; our charge is to serve all students, regardless of their station. There are many young people in our community who struggle with homelessness, adverse childhood experiences, abuse, neglect, substance abuse, and early involvement with the criminal justice system. We recognize that an 'ounce of prevention' can go a long way."
The grant provides support for the following activities: Collaborating with the Department and/or its Restorative Practices Office to develop a sustainable, multi-disciplinary approach, including mental health services, safety and law enforcement personnel, restorative practices, mentors, and career development.
Providing specialized instructional support services (including violence prevention and counseling), referrals for such services, and activities to address the identified needs of individual At-Risk and System Involved Youth.
Attracting, engaging, and retaining At-Risk and System Involved Youths who are not enrolled in schools and programs provided to System Involved Youth.
Coordinating school services for At-Risk and System Involved Youth with those of other agencies.
Expediting the evaluation of the needs of At-Risk and System Involved Youth and their eligibility for specific programs and services.
Academically accredited professional development for school personnel to heighten their understanding of the needs of At-Risk and System Involved Youth.
Director of Innovation and Curriculum Mandy Cyr, agrees, "Schools don't have the luxury of teaching the 3 R's and calling it a day. Our community is dynamic and thriving writ large, but we still serve families and children who need a great deal of support. Our administrative team is thrilled with the impact this award can make--it's one of the, if not the, largest non-federal grants ever received by the school department."
The public is always welcome to comment at a regular meeting of its School Committee about how we invest our community's resources.