Decatur Township schools reviving program that's helping students succeed

Brittany Palencer’s students are better behaved and getting better grades because of an old idea Decatur township schools is giving new life tonight. (WTHR)

DECATUR TOWNSHIP, Ind. (WTHR) — A rare partnership between the community and Decatur Township Schools is paying off for students. It’s helping kids who are struggling with problems that get in the way of learning.

The Community in Schools program is improving attendance, grades and graduations, according to school administrators.

Brittany Palencer's students are more attentive, less disruptive and learning a lot more.

A student is cutting out letters as part of an alphabet activity. (WTHR)

"They are not worried about if they are eating at home, if they are going to get to school on time," she said. "Those worries have been eliminated."

Palancer can't forget the student who thanked her for sending him home with groceries.

"It makes me feel emotional," she said wiping away tears. "I'm sorry, it's very important."

So important that last year Decatur Township brought the Community in Schools In Indiana program to all its schools, providing non-academic things that help students learn: things like food, clothing, mentors, mental health services, eye glasses, even beds to sleep in.

"It's unbelievably amazing," Julie Collier said. Her two children, Mark and Skyla, struggled with school.

"He (Marc) would have temper tantrums. He didn't want to go. He was afraid,” she explained. 'Now he makes A's, B's and C's. He's wanting to go he's excited too."

The results, according to Superintendent Matt Prusiecki, are impressive.

"What really hits is the impact,” he said. “We help and support each family.”

Community In Schools helped 557 students last year. About nine out of 10 students improved their behavior and their grades. Three out of four had better attendance. All 20 seniors graduated with college or career plans.

While teachers at the Gold Academy teach, it's Karen Hartnett's job to find grants and donations to provide whatever students need. Even her friends and relatives aren't off limits.

"If I see a need for a student, I ask and they are willing to do it," Hartnett said with a smile.

The Communities In Schools Indiana program started decades ago but faded to near obscurity. Decatur schools revived it with a pilot program three years ago. By their count is up and running again in 28 central Indiana schools.

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