Smith-Hale College Prep sees massive progress in limiting school fights

KANSAS CITY - Smith-Hale College Preparatory Academy reported nearly 1,000 fights in the last three years, but new grant money and leadership is helping change the trend.

In the 2010-2011 school year, the school of 985 sixth and seventh graders recorded 432 fights, but during this past school year, that number was cut in half.

The district credits the work of recently-hired Principal Jermaine Wilson, who is finishing his second school year.

Wilson said he knew he was entering a school that was struggling with climate and culture, so he made it a priority.

"The one thing that we worked with students on is being able to process, being able to resolve conflict without having physical altercations, to be able to talk out issues and to understand where each other is coming from," Wilson said.

Wilson said the progress is a direct result of a Missouri School Improvement Grant, which gave the school the funding to add several positions specifically for limiting the number of fights.

"We have a parent involvement coordinator, a behavior interventionist, additional staff members and tutors who are here to provided wrap around support for our students," Wilson said.

While the grant money won't be renewed next year, the district found its own funding to retain all the positions for the 2013-2014 school year.

Wilson also said the reduction is a result of parent involvement. When Wilson began at Smith-Hale, the school's PTA was inactive. Currently, the PTA is active and has been recognized for having the largest increase in parents in the entire state -- membership is up 12,000 percent. 

While some parents feel the progress is promising, others aren't impressed.

Bennie Jackson has a seventh-grade daughter at the school and wishes the progress in the hallways led to progress in the classrooms.

"I'm skeptical by nature, but I am very skeptical when there's a 50 percent drop in fights," Jackson said. "Fights may be down, but if our grades and our students still aren't achieving, then I don't think it matters."

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