The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently granted nearly half a million dollars to 37 school districts throughout the commonwealth via its Safe Schools Targeted Grants program, which is designed to establish and implement programs and projects that reduce violent incidences in schools and neighboring communities.
According to the PDE, the grant is designed to accomplish an array of anti-violence initiatives, while the other broad focus for the receiving districts is to enhance the overall combined nonviolent efforts of school officials, local stakeholders and politicians.
“The purpose of the Safe Schools Targeted Grant is to assist school entities by providing up to $15,000 in funding for programs under their comprehensive safe school plans, which include the planning and implementation of activities that prevent or reduce violence by and against youth on school property and/or transportation to and from school,” said PDE spokesman Tim Eller. “The grant must be used in accordance with the criteria identified in Act 26 of 1995, as amended the Safe Schools Act, and as indicated in the request for application, in the following areas: conflict resolution or dispute management; positive behavior support; classroom management; violence prevention and anti-bullying; de-escalation and behavior interventions and comprehensive, district-wide school safety.”
While the School District of Philadelphia is conspicuously omitted from this round of Safe Schools Targeted Grants, several neighboring school districts will benefit, including Abington School District in nearby Montgomery County. The 55,000-plus pupil Abington School District will receive $15,000 — the highest grant amount possible for awarded districts. There are nine schools in the Abington School District, including seven elementary schools, and its budget is set at $133,468,435 for the 2012–2013 academic year.
Abington also has a per-pupil funding figure of $12,004.06 for elementary school students and $12,370.59 for secondary students.
The PDE received 97 applications from the more than 400 active school districts throughout the state, and PDE spokesman Tim Eller confirmed that officials with the Philadelphia school district never applied for the grant. Calls and emails to the district weren’t returned as of Tribune press time.
As recently as last summer, the education department released its 2012–2013 list of Persistently Dangerous Schools — a rather short list of six schools, all located in Philadelphia: Frankford High School, Kensington International Business, Finance and Enterprise High School, Lincoln High School, Strawberry Mansion High School, Beeber Dimner Middle School and Stephen A. Douglas Middle School.
When reached, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan declined comment, as did American Federation of Teachers PA President Ted Kirsch.
Downingtown Area School District Superintendent Dr. Lawrence Mussoline said he and other officials within his district are grateful to receive the $13,460 grant, and hoped to continue with safety implements installed from previous Safe Schools Targeted Grants it obtained.
“We are extremely pleased that the state has created grant opportunities that help school districts foster learning and growth in a safe and supportive environment. In the past two years the Downingtown Area School District has received over $26,000 in Safe School grants,” Mussoline said. “These funds provide support materials for the Olweus anti-bullying program that is used in all 10 elementary schools. Thank you to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for its part in helping our district and community fund this exceptional program.”
According to Clemson University — one of the early researchers of the anti-bullying measure, the Olweus Program is a comprehensive, school-wide program designed and evaluated for use in elementary, middle, junior high or high schools. The program’s goals are to reduce and prevent bullying problems among school children and to improve peer relations at school; the Olweus Program has been implemented in more than a dozen countries around the world, and in thousands of schools in the United States.
The Norristown Area School District received $14,426. Norristown’s district serves East Norristown Township, West Norristown Township and the Norristown Municipality, has 11 schools in its portfolio and teaches 6,800 students. Ridley School District, which is located in Delaware County and headquartered in Folsom, Pa., received $11,209 for its antiviolence measures.
Other awardees include Chester County’s Coatesville Area School District and the Warwick School District, located in Lancaster County.
While many of the school districts received the $15,000 max or a sum very close to it, there were several districts that received much lower grants. The Warren County School District, which serves 4,661 students in the Allegheny National Forrest region, received $7,000, while the Schuylkill Haven Area School District received $6,405.
According to the PDE, grantee school districts can also use the grants to fund conflict resolution resources, crafting school-wide nonviolent emphasis, creating school-based diversionary programs and to train members of individual school districts’ Student Assistance Program team members.
“Ensuring the safety of Pennsylvania’s students in of the utmost importance,” said PDE Secretary Ron Tomalis. “Students, parents and teachers expect schools to be a safe environment in which to learn. These funds will provide the necessary resources for schools to put programs into place that will enhance safety in our schools.
“I applaud the administrators of these schools for seeking ways to reduce and eliminate violence in our education facilities.”