JEFFERSON — The School District of Jefferson has received word it will receive a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Transition Readiness Grant that will boost the district’s age 18-21 special education Transitions programming.
Kathy Volk, pupil services and special education director for the Jefferson schools, said the district applied for the competitive grant last year but did not receive it, as the DPI has limited funds for this program. This year, the district will be one of the recipients.
The district will receive just over $30,000 in grant funds, the great majority of which will go toward a new van dedicated to the Eagle Pathways Transition program.
The DPI’s Transition Readiness Grant is aimed at supporting the following five evidence-based practices in post-secondary Transitions programming: transportation; Project Search tuition; post-secondary tuition and supports for students; Transition certification for staff members; and training for paraprofessionals (aides) in transition and job coaching.
“I am thrilled that our Transition Readiness Grant application was approved, and we will be receiving $30,194 in funding for the 2019-20 school year,” Volk said.
Volk said that $25,000 will go toward purchasing a new special education van to support community-based work activities. Then the district will use $4,194 to send a team of Jefferson High School special education paraprofessionals, as well as a few teachers, to training on transition and job coaching.
The training will take place Aug. 13 and 14 at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, with virtual follow-up sessions in November, January and March. Grant dollars will cover staff wages and travel costs (hotel stays, mileage, and meals during the training).
The job coaching training will open up the district’s internal capacity to have staff members support students in the work environment, Volk said.
In addition, $1,000 will go to supporting Transitions teachers Cori Bollinger and Jeremy Harnack as one or both of them begin to work toward Transitions certification. This is not required, but provides an extra level of certification, keeping them in touch with the latest research and “best practices” in transition education.
Volk recognized the Jefferson school board and school staff for their great work in developing and rolling out the Eagle Pathways age 18-21 Transitions program. She gave a special shout-out to Harnack and Bollinger for doing so much work to establish Eagle Pathways and working to build it up from scratch this year, with an eye toward the future of the growing program.
This first year, the Jefferson High School program has just two students, but next year, the number of students served will go up to six, and the year after, it is expected to almost double again.
Finally, she recognized the community partners who have stepped up to assure access for Transitions students to community employment at competitive wages.
“This is a win-win for the schools and the community,” said Jefferson Superintendent Mark Rollefson. “In today’s economy, people are looking for workers,” he said.
The superintendent noted that the Transitions program and its partnership with local employers helps to place people in these positions that can be hard to fill, while providing initial supports to help these new employees succeed on the job.
“These students have a lot to offer our community,” Rollefson said.
(Watch for an article in an upcoming edition on how employers are finding places where area Transitions students can contribute.)