BROWARD COUNTY- Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), in partnership with the Community Foundation of Broward, has made great progress, marking the first year of transforming the middle school learning experience. Thanks to the generous support of the Foundation, the District prepares to enter the second year of the Reimagining Middle Grades School is Cool initiative, re-launched in the 2018/19 school year.
The Foundation has awarded the second $1 million of a $3 million grant – $1 million per year over three years – for the 2019/20 school year. The School is Cool program, which began in 2013, entered an exciting new phase strengthened by the historic $3 million grant – which represents the largest grant the Foundation has awarded to date. The District is matching the amount, creating a combined total contribution of $6 million to double the impact of this critically important program.
In its first year, the program focused on improving students’ social and emotional health, closing the achievement gap, and building a connection between schools and communities for low-performing and at-risk students at 10 District middle schools. The grant also extended the school year by providing students with a wide variety of life experiences during the summer. An eight-day summer camp, free to families, allows students to explore different subjects, meet new friends and earn a half-credit in fine arts that counts toward their high school graduation requirement.
“This partnership furthers the District and the Foundation’s strategic efforts to close the achievement gap and increase high school graduation rates by focusing on middle grades success,” said BCPS Superintendent Robert W. Runcie. “Thanks to the Foundation’s generous support, our students are exploring exciting courses and enjoying electives in robotics, computer science, music, art, debate and yoga, for which they may not otherwise have access.”
The first-year match made by the District was used to fund additional support positions at school sites, including counselors and community liaisons who reached out to help students deal with the day-to-day challenges they faced to improve attendance, behavior and course performance – a strategy called the ABCs. The goal was to engage students in acquiring the social competencies, problem-solving skills and academic competencies needed for a successfully transition from elementary school to middle school, and from middle school to high school.
“The Foundation knows middle school success is the key to improving Broward’s high school graduation rate, and we’re proud to partner with Broward Schools on this critical community issue,” said Linda Carter, President/CEO of the Community Foundation of Broward. “The School is Cool program changes lives and will have a positive impact on Broward that will last for generations. This historic grant was made possible by more than 30 local philanthropists with endowed charitable Funds at the Foundation, who have boldly put their fingerprints on Broward’s future.”
Students, teachers and administrators have played an integral role throughout the development of the School is Cool initiative. Students have expressed excitement in the increased elective options and enjoyment in improved relationships with their peers and adults. Teachers have shared how the new experiences have created a shift in students’ mindset. Administrators have noted the positive impact on the culture in their schools evidenced by the teamwork and collaboration, and have enjoyed supporting teachers who have embraced the new approach. Most important, quarterly reports gauge the continued progress students are making in improving their attendance, behavior and course grades.
Participating middle schools include: Apollo Middle School, Attucks Middle School, Crystal Lakes Middle School, Lauderdale Lakes Middle School, New Renaissance Middle School, New River Middle School, Nova Middle School, Parkway Middle School, Silver Lakes Middle School and Sunrise Middle School. If successful at the end of the three-year grant period, the School is Cool initiative will be implemented at all BCPS middle schools.
This initiative is made possible by support from the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Mary N. Porter Community Impact Fund, The Allen Family Fund for Children, Broward’s Tribute to Children Fund, The Sherman “Red” Crise and Evelyn R. Crise Memorial Fund, The Huizenga Fund for Children, James and Lynn LaBate Family Fund, Lawrence A. Sanders Fund to Promote Literacy, Jim Moran Children’s Fund, Sheriff Nick Navarro Fund, Robert O. Powell Family Fund, Margaret and Cato Roach Tribute Fund, Patricia Lee Rutherford Fund for Children, Sun Sentinel Literacy Fund, Charles and Ruth Taylor Fund, Anna Bloeser Fund, Donald C. Grobmyer Fund, David and Francie Horvitz Family Fund, Edwin A. and Jane N. Huston Fund, Herschell and Margo Lewis Fund, Jan Moran Unrestricted Fund, Norman R. and Ruth Rales Fund, Kathleen Kinney Slappey Fund, LaVere G. and Mabel R. White Fund, The Rumbaugh Fund, Jack Belt Memorial Fund, Vista Healthplan Children’s Health Fund, Fred and Mary Ruffner Fund, William G. Roy, Sr. Fund, Frank D. and Anita M. Butler Endowment Fund, Community Impact Fund and Margaret Garrison via Discretionary Community Fund.