South High School Prioritizes Student Success with BARR

Students gathering in circle

BARR Center (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) is excited to announce South High School as the first BARR school in the state of North Dakota, in an effort to help each and every student succeed. BARR is the nation’s leading evidence-based school improvement model that brings education into the 21st century through intentionally deepened relationships and a data-driven, personalized and supportive approach. 

The South High School team recently welcomed students back into their building, as they kicked off the 2021-22 school year. The new school year brings exciting opportunities for the high school team to continue leveraging their compassion, commitment and talents to best support students through the BARR model, possible due to a grant awarded by the North Dakota Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group (SAG). SAG works on juvenile justice reform, using best practice and current research on adolescent development. The goal in Fargo Public’s grant is to increase student engagement and decrease likelihood of contact with the juvenile justice system, particularly that of minority youth. 

The high school has begun implementing BARR with their more than 230 ninth grade students, which will provide educators with a structure to use the power of relationships and data to best support students through a strength-based approach. 

“BARR has two key foundational beliefs,” said BARR’s Founder and Executive Director Angela Jerabek. “Students are very capable of learning if we can truly see who they are and educators are incredibly talented if we provide a system where we can realize their talents.”

With the goal of helping each student walk across the graduation stage and receive their diplomas, South High School Principal Dr. Todd Bertsch believes BARR can be a helpful way to ease the transition for students between middle school and high school. As BARR’s tagline says: Same Students. Same Teachers. Better Results. 

“BARR provides a structure for educators to be able to best work together to support students throughout their education,” Bertsch said. “By establishing strong relationships with each of our students, we are going to be able to collaborate as a team and effectively coach students through transitions to make sure they feel safe, supported and cared for in order to achieve their academic goals.”

As a K-12 model, BARR is based on two pillars: relationships and data. Impacting more than 150,000 students across the country in 21 states and D.C., the relationships at the foundation of the model are staff-to-staff, staff-to-student, and student-to-student. While these relationships are critical to improving school culture, both quantitative and qualitative data are also key in empowering staff in understanding students socially, emotionally and academically. The South High School team kicked off BARR through a two-day Implementation Training, focusing on how to both build the strongest relationships within their building and use this data to ensure all of their needs are met.

“The first step in educational equity is access to opportunity,” said Fargo Public Schools’ Director of Equity and Inclusion Dr. Tamara Uselman. “The Building Assets and Reducing Risks model is unique in that it builds the academic muscles of current students through a network of teachers, staff, and family. When BARR becomes how we ‘do school,’ students have even greater access to educational opportunities. Students are more likely to feel valued and connected, learn content and skills, and graduate on time, choice ready.”

The team has already started making deeper connections within their school community by facilitating I-Times, which are social-emotional lessons with a focus on building intentional relationships. 

“The benefits of these activities are two-fold and tremendously important for student growth,”   said South High School Assistant Principal Dr. Shannon Mortrud. “They both allow staff and students to deepen their relationships by better understanding each other while also teaching students critical skills such as goal-setting, problem-solving and self-confidence.”

I-Times are just one of the many ways that the current South High School staff and students will be utilizing BARR as they work together to get students one step closer to graduation. 

“BARR will make school more valuable to students now, but also, I believe on-time graduation opens doors that would otherwise be closed. Those doors tend to remain open, one generation after the next. Everyone wins: students, teachers and staff, families, the school community, today and tomorrow,” said Dr. Uselman.

The BARR team is looking forward to impacting even more students in this partnership with South High School’s talented educators to support students in not only graduating, but achieving their dreams beyond the classroom walls. 

Check out the press release published on PR Newswire, as well as featured by KVRR and WDAY TV News.