2018-01-25 / Local News

Suttons Bay starts program to identify, serve at-risk students

By Jen Murphy
of the Enterprise staff

Suttons Bay Elementary is kicking off a new program to support the school’s most at-risk students.

Communities in Schools (CIS) is designed to connect students and families to educational and community based resources.

The program is beginning this semester, and interim superintendent Michael Carmean is enthusiastic.

“What excites me most about the program is having extra support for our neediest children. Our counselors and others are available, but it’s never enough,” Carmean said.

“A top need for our kids is we need to continue to work on relationships with adults in our kids with the neediest of children,” he added. “It’s difficult to do as a classroom teacher. This program gives us a person who is trained as a professional to make those relationships.”

Communities in Schools of Northwest Michigan executive director Amy Burk is looking forward to the partnership as well. “We are excited and eager to bring her onto our CIS Team as we kick off the second semester of the school year,” she said.

Burk said they recently hired Danielle Portillo as the CIS site coordinator for Suttons Bay Elementary. Portillo holds a master of social work degree and has experience with the field of education and community partners.

“Danielle brings knowledge and skills in working with students and families, as well as a wealth of community resources,” she said.

Program relies on the site coordinator to work with school staff to identify school-wide and individual needs, Burk explained.

One of Portillo’s first tasks will be to conduct a school-wide needs assessment. Based on the results, she will develop programming for the student body as a whole as well as services for individual students.

Individual needs might include physical things such as clothing, food, school supplies, and services such as mentoring, tutoring and mental health referrals.

“The powerful thing about CIS is that we don’t do our work alone. We work with partners who already exist in the community by bringing them into the schools to provide the needed services,” Burk said.

Funded by a national CIS grant, Suttons Bay Public Schools is one of five new schools in northwest Michigan to start the program this year, according to Burk. Other schools include Central Lake Elementary School, Kalkaska Middle School, Kalkaska High School and Forest Area Public Schools.

CIS of Northwest Michigan is expected to more than double the number of students served. They anticipate serving 2,700 this school year.

“I’m just thankful there’s a program that will come and help where we sometimes don’t have resources to do everything that’s expected of us. We are just starting out, and we will learn together,” Carmean said.

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