Detroit Lakes High School Improves Culture with BARR


When it comes to student success, the Detroit Lakes High School team will tell you that BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) is making a difference in improving their school’s culture.

The BARR team recently presented with the northwestern Minnesota school at South Dakota’s Department of Tribal Relations’ Indian Education Conference. During the presentation, BARR’s team shared about the model’s two pillars of relationships and data before handing it off to Detroit Lakes High School to hear first-hand how BARR is impacting their school. Check out the event!

The Detroit Lakes High School team consisted of Principal and former resident of White Earth Reservation Josh Omang, BARR Coordinator Kelly Kalina and American Indian College & Career Facilitator/Ojibwe Culture Teacher and former resident of White Earth Reservation Melanie Holmquist. They began implementing BARR this school year with their ninth-twelfth grade students.

Since the implementation of the model, they have noticed an improvement in their school’s culture. Educators in their building have been able to connect and talk about students in a strength-based way like never before. 

“You have all of these people that are brought together in a systematic way, and they share those little pieces with each other and there’s a lot of power in that,” Omang said. “You can actually get at how you could help these kids.”

Omang shared how BARR is helping their team strengthen relationships with all of their students, and especially their Native American students, which makes up 22% of their student body. BARR was cited as an important piece in helping support those furthest from opportunity while also improving outcomes for every student. These relationships have been possible to strengthen through transparency in both qualitative and quantitative data that educators are able to discuss collaboratively. 

“That’s my favorite part about the meetings, you start with students’ strengths and connections to school,” Omang exclaimed.

Before talking about any student concerns, BARR allows teachers to connect about students through a different lens. Kalina is entering his eighth year serving on the Detroit Lakes High School team. He discussed how as a BARR Coordinator he notices how staff truly are understanding students as both a person and a learner.

“I have seen more growth in two months of us running this BARR program in terms of our staff culture and how we’re approaching things and how we’re dealing with students, than I did the previous seven years,” Kalina stated.

Kalina shared how I-Times, a 30-minute weekly relationship-building lesson, has been one of the greatest changes in the culture of their school. 

“Our teachers have created a good, positive environment for students, and our students feel safe and they feel more connected to the students in the classroom and, most importantly, to their teachers,” Kalina said.

Starting with strengths has made a noticeable difference at building success for Detroit Lakes High School students. 

“We start our meetings with this positive approach, which I think is amazing because a lot of times our students, there’s so many negative things that happen, they aren’t looked upon in a likeable manner,” Holmquist explained. “By using these positive comments, it just makes a difference in understanding and being willing to work more with these students.” 

This was a powerful time to connect and serve as just another reminder of how Detroit Lakes High School is forging the path of showcasing how relationships and data matter in helping each and every student succeed.