JPS Board Discusses Student Support Services

The Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education heard a presentation about its new Students Support Services department at Tuesday’s meeting. Pictured are JPS board members inside Fletcher Elementary School. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Chad Bongiovanni told the Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education that his department, which was established over the summer, is all about the students.

“Our vision is to develop and implement a plan in accordance with laws and regulations over all areas assigned to the department that lead to academic, social and emotional success for all students,” said Bongiovanni, director of Student Support Services.

The former Jefferson Middle School principal was appointed to his current position over the summer. The position, and essentially the department, was created along with the coordinator for student support services at a July meeting. Bongiovanni also handles some duties previously managed by the director of pupil personnel services.

The position of director of pupil personnel services previously held by Bret Muscarella was eliminated. Muscarella was appointed to the director of special education in July as well.

“Through your support we were able to reorganize pupil personnel services and reorganize positions to be able to ensure that we’re getting our students the very best services that we possible can,” said Michelle McDowell, JPS chief academic officer, to board members Tuesday. “So, what we did is we took pupil personnel services and divided it into two divisions.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Bongiovanni and Maureen Diehl, coordinator of Student Support Services, provided a detailed report of how the department has impacted the district thus far in the 2019-20 school year, and highlighted its goals going forward.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is providing every student with the support they need to eliminate barriers for academic success,” Bongiovanni said.

The Student Support Services department oversees the JPS multi-tiered systems of support, or MTSS, that includes the school counseling department, the health services department, central registration, Universal Pre-K, 504 services, home-schooled students, home-tutored students and homeless students.

For example, Bongiovanni serves as the McKinney-Vento liaison overseeing students who are currently without homes. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law that protects homeless students and provides funding for shelter programs. JPS currently has 45 students who are protected under the law.

“Oftentimes, we have families that are temporarily displaced for various reasons and we are their first line of support providing them with anything that they need to not disturb their academic process,” he said.

Under the district’s MTSS, educators look to “grow the whole child” by focusing on academics, behavior and social and emotional health, he said. He noted that the department often works with local service providers and links students to those organizations.

“This system has three different tiers so every student is accounted for in one tier or another,” Bongiovanni said.

“We have a system of supports in place for students that are performing well in the tier-one level. If they need a little extra support, we have tier-two supports and if they need more intense support than that we have tier-three supports as well.”

Diehl added that the current system of operations is “essential” for successful student achievement. She said while following a general framework, the system allows for discretion and professional judgment to support a specific population. With Jamestown, the district’s MTSS is addressing individual student needs unique to this area using evidence based research. Each support service is monitored alongside academic, behavioral and social and emotional progress among students in order to track success rates.

“We really target what our students need at the right time,” Diehl said. “So, we’re really digging into the right intervention for the right student at the right time.”

Additionally, Bongiovanni said that the department was restructured on the basis of several truisms, which the district follows as a whole.

“Dr. (Bret) Apthorpe (JPS superintendent) and his administrative team consisting of principals, coordinators. instructional coaches and many, many people established and agreed upon these truisms. These truisms are what we live by,” he said.

These ideas include concepts such as all students can learn; there are hundreds of high-poverty schools who are also high performing; high-performing, high-poverty schools have cultures where there are high expectations for every student; every struggling student has an intervention or interventions that will make each one successful; and student achievement is much higher when teachers collaborate using assessment data to inform their instruction.

“The work that we are doing through our MTSS framework is going to allow us to achieve these truisms,” Bongiovanni said. “There’s a direct correlation between the multi-tiered systems of support we’re providing in our schools with what we believe to be true and what we are trying to achieve. And at the end of the day, it’s for all students.”