District Administration April 2018 - 23

HEALTH AND WELLNESS

Districts expand services for homeless students
Dallas ISD's morning drop-in centers
for homeless high school students provide necessities such as take-home food,
hygiene products and a place to wash
clothes. The program's managers say they
also strive to offer an equally important,
if less tangible, resource: trust.
Homeless teens rarely tell anyone
about their predicament because they're
afraid of "a multitude of things," such
as being turned over to foster care or
reported to the police, says Mark Pierce,
manager of the drop-in program. Some
gay and transgender students don't want
anyone to know they have been thrown
out of their homes because of their lifestyles, he adds.
Establishing trust with these teens is
one of the key reasons the district says it
is essential for the centers to operate at
high schools, rather than at other community organizations.
"You have to come a long way to gain
that trust and if anybody is going to
gain that trust, it should be the school
system," Pierce says. "If you can establish

trust you can get them to continue and
to graduate from high school. You can
bring in counselors to help them resolve
their situations."
Eliminating obstacles
Students can visit the centers-which
have opened at 24 Dallas ISD high
schools since 2012-before school from
8 a.m. to 9 a.m. The rooms are staffed by
a community liaison. Pierce also brings
in volunteer mentors and speakers who
tell students about housing programs
and other community services. Students
can see the liaison any time during the
week if they need food, hygiene products, clothing or other supplies.
Teens who have visited the centers
have shown improved attendance, Pierce
adds. "One of the primary objectives of
drop-in centers is to eliminate obstacles."
Elsewhere, Maine School Administrative District #60 is planning to
create housing for teens who are homeless, which can also mean staying with
friends or sleeping on someone's couch.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS
For the last six years, Superintendent
Lonny Lemon of Illinois has delivered
thousands of discarded pencils to
a needy school in Puerto Vallarta,
Mexico. The Oak Grove Elementary
District 68 leader is now raising $25,000
so he can donate 400 desks to the
Mexican school. He and his wife will contribute $1,000.

Building a beacon
The Maine district has formed its own
nonprofit with plans to purchase a home
where teens can stay under supervision.
It's a program that can be replicated in
the other U.S. districts trying to improve
the lives of homeless students, Assistant
Superintendent Susan Austin says.
"We chose that house to be a beacon
for us," she says. "We want to highlight
the reality in our districts that there are
kids living in unstable situations."
The house would serve about a dozen
students a year. Teachers would likely
make referrals as they are most likely to
be the first educator to discover a student's ordeal, Austin says.
The district already operates a schoolbased health clinic and sends backpacks
of food home with students in need.
"We've been able to provide everything
except for a stable living situation," Austin says. "If we can't give them that, then
all those other things don't make the difference that needs to be made for these
kids to succeed."
-Matt Zalaznick

Administrator in Charge of Special Projects
Olivia Leschick has developed afterschool, health career pathway and career
technical education programs at Valley
Center-Pauma USD after winning a number
of grants. Leschick has subsequently
received the Association of California
School Administrators' Central Office
Administrator of the Year award for her work.

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April 2018 23


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration April 2018

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District Administration April 2018 - Cover2
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