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Santa Barbara Unified Hires 3 More Deans of Student Engagement for Secondary Schools

Santa Barbara Junior High School Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Unified Board of Education approved hiring dean of student engagement positions for three schools, including Santa Barbara Junior High School, pictured here.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Unified junior high and high schools are each bringing on a dean of student engagement, a new position that replaces the assistant principal post at each site.

Three new hires were approved by the Board of Education without discussion Tuesday night.  

James Bedard will serve at Alta Vista Alternative High School and La Cuesta Continuation High School, Samantha Mellerup-Harms at Santa Barbara Junior High School and Ryan Sportel at Goleta Valley Junior High School.

“Most of the work is one-on-one with students, but their families are an important piece and meeting with the families of the students,” said Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent of student services. “The dean receives referrals from teachers, school counselors, and parents. They also look at data points and the students with multiple truancies.”

The dean of student engagement position is jointly funded by the district and school site, and provides assistance to students and staff while promoting teamwork and leading student engagement under the principal's direction, according to the district. 

The role provides leadership in academic, behavioral, and social-emotional prevention and intervention, among other duties, district spokeswoman Lauren Bianchi Klemann said. 

A primary role is the training and implementation of restorative approaches, as well as overseeing student attendance. 

La Cumbre Junior High School has yet to receive a new dean due to its small student population, and La Colina Junior High School is slated to receive a dean of student engagement when there’s a vacancy in the assistant principal position, Wageneck said.

The position was first established last year, in the three traditional high schools, to provide monitoring and intervention for specific students and the implementation of restorative approaches to combat suspension rates.

“Their roles are focusing on students struggling with drug and alcohol issues, mental health and wellness, and also attendance,” Wageneck said. “We wanted them to focus on engaging students who were struggling and re-engage them in school."

Santa Barbara Unified high schools saw a 40-percent drop in student suspensions this year compared to last year, a decrease attributed to the dean of student engagement position, Bianchi Klemann said. 

The deans in three traditional high schools have collectively made almost 3,000 interventions in about 145 school days this year, Wageneck told the Board of Education.

“The data has been good with the high schools, and I think the same model with the junior highs will play out similarly,” Wageneck said.

The position receives a salary of about $94,534 for a 198-day contract, according to the district, with a stipend for employees holding a master’s degree and a doctoral degree.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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