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Training aids C-L-K employees: Capturing Kids’ Hearts program funded through PHF

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette - Laura Wagner, leadership strategist for the Flippen Group, leads a training session for Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw staff Wednesday.

CALUMET– Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw employees sat down with each other and opened up Wednesday as part of a two-day training session designed to inspire school employees to create a more comfortable learning environment.

The Capturing Kids’ Hearts presentation is part of a $59,000 grant the district received from the Portage Health Foundation. The district is in the second year of its Creating a Trauma-Informed School grant, including programs that help students better cope with stress.

“Everyone has a story,” said C-L-K Elementary School Assistant Principal Julie Giachino. “So this training helps us to understand that and accept that, and therefore support each other.”

Capturing Kids’ Hearts was created by the Flippen Group, a College Station, Texas-based leadership consulting group. It concentrates on building meaningful relationships with students and colleagues, creating a social contract with classrooms and instilling techniques for dealing with conflict.

“If we want our kids to do great things, if they don’t know how, we’re going to be disappointed all the time,” said Vern Hazard, senior vice president of solutions for the Flippen Group. “So we have to model greatness, to teach them what that looks like. Once they have it, boom, they’re off to the races.”

Several teachers saw the two-day program in action last year and brought it back to the district. This is the first year the training has been done district-wide.

Wednesday’s sessions were emotional, participants said. At the conclusion of one session, two staff members spontaneously hugged.

“It really gives us opportunities that we can actually have those conversations with each other that we normally don’t get to have during a professional work day,” said C-L-K Elementary School Principal Matthew Hampton.

After Horizons Alternative High School Principal Joel Asiala saw the program, Horizons put some of those ideas into place last year, with immediate impact, Asiala said. In 2017-18, 31.8% of students were identified as truant at some point in the year; that dropped to 8.7% last year. Over the same span, disciplinary write-ups fell from 55 to 30.

What has made the program so effective is that teachers are meeting students at their level, Asiala said. That began with meeting students at the door. It’s since progressed to meeting them as they come off the bus. if a student looks stressed out, teachers can talk with them immediately. That might prevent a stop a disciplinary issue from happening later on, Asiala said.

“It reduces their stress level, and it makes their life better,” he said. “And that joy then spreads to other students, the teachers, and then ultimately to the entire staff.”

Through the grant, C-L-K will also advance programs it started last year. Those include partnering with local police departments to improve communication between district counselors and officers who respond to incidents where a student was present; more on-campus time for the district’s service dog, Bleau; and training for new staff members on the meaning of being a trauma-informed school.

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