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Niagara Falls Schools receive $2.5M for violence, mental health partnership with NU

MIke Desmond

Federal dollars are coming to Niagara Falls to help students in Cataract City schools deal with their personal problems, violence and mental health issues.

The district will be getting$2.5 million over five years. Much of the cash will go to Niagara University to place graduate students in the school buildings: 15 this year, building to an eventual 75. School Superintendent Mark Laurrie hopes they can eventually be hired full time.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Officials announce the $2.5 million grant to help students.

Niagara Education Dean Chandra Foote said what they learn in the schools might make the students want to eventually stay here and work in area school buildings. The grant will also allow the district to do more training of teachers so that they can spot troubled kids in their classrooms and get them help.
"There are different issues and challenges," said Foote. "I don't know that the curriculum has radically changed, but the needs of the kids have changed. Communities have changed. The technology is so different. The way that we need to teach them, even though the curriculum hasn't changed, the way that we teach them has to change."

"We selected Niagara Street today because they have done a particularly excellent job of meeting those needs with the resources they have. This is going to make them even better," said Laurrie. "For instance, this school, in one of the more difficult areas of the city, has the lowest suspension rate and the highest attendance rate of any school in the district."

The district will have five social work interns, five school psychologist interns and five school counseling interns. The new interns will work in 11 district schools, interacting with the district's 7,200 students.

"There's not enough money in any federal or state budget to out-counsel this. The only way we can do this is we train our teachers who have 20 to 22 kids in front of them to be a first line, as Dr. Foote said, of defense and support," said Laurrie. "It has to be more than just, 'You've got a problem. Go to the counselor.' They have to be able to, not only teach math and science and social studies, but also to recognize and treat kids and then resource them out."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.