Vanguard receives grant for school climate program

Vanguard Academy is taking a “proactive” approach to create an ideal learning environment for students.

Vanguard Academy has campuses in Pharr, Edinburg and Alamo.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded $3.7 million to Vanguard Academy to implement the School Climate Transformation Grant. This grant will give the open-enrollment charter over $700,000 each year for five years.

Vanguard Academy will be hiring seven staff members, including a school psychologist, social workers and school resource officers. A Response to Intervention specialist, who will train teachers, staff and others to help understand them better understand needs so they can be successful academically, said Narciso Garcia, Vanguard Academy’s superintendent.

Garcia said all of these employees will contribute to this goal.

“This grant is going to allow (us) to transform our vision and mission in the school district in the sense of providing students with more emotional support,” Garcia said.

School climate is defined as “the quality and character of school life” according to the National School Climate Council. Garcia said administrators are tasked in creating a school climate that is ideal.

“What this grant will allow for us to do is provide that extra support system for positive student behaviors that will in turn create a positive learning environment,” Garcia said.

Vanguard Academy has also partnered with local representatives to receive the grant, Garcia said.

“An environment that allows students and teachers to interact, grow and learn will set every individual up for success,” said U.S. Rep Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen.

Vanguard Academy will also partner with the Region One Education Service Center, City of Edinburg, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Tropical Texas Behavioral Health, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, among other entities for this grant, according to the news release.

“It was really just in line with our core values here, which is connecting our school with the community and vice versa,” Special Education Director Michael Cantu said.

The open-enrollment charter has about 30 specialized staff members, but “pretty much everybody here at Vanguard Academy does appreciate the need and support” in addressing student needs academically, socially and emotionally, Cantu said.

“It’s like the icing on the cake (in) providing the support to our teachers, and our students and our parents,” Cantu said.

Over the course of the grant, it will also be a learning process can be used to “replicate” the results afterward, Garcia said.

This also aligns in the political environment, as national and regional politicians are stressing the need in addressing mental health, Garcia said. This grant will add another layer to current measures, he said.

“The biggest goal for this grant is providing the social, emotional and academic support to all of our students… in a proactive manner,” Garcia said.