The Brentwood school district will receive $3.6 million, according to...

The Brentwood school district will receive $3.6 million, according to figures released by the state Education Department. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Four Long Island school districts — Brentwood, West Hempstead, Valley Stream 30 and Huntington — are among 44 educational institutions statewide that will share millions in federal funding that local educators said will be used to help improve school culture.

The selected districts and charter schools throughout New York are set to receive a combined $69 million through the federal “Stronger Connections Grant Program,” state officials announced Wednesday. The federal program, authorized under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022, supports high-needs districts, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

On the Island, the Brentwood district will receive $3.6 million; the West Hempstead district, $1.6 million; Valley Stream 30, $1.4 million; and Huntington, $202,515, according to figures released by the state Education Department.

Schools are supposed to commit to using the money by Sept. 30, 2026. 

Brentwood schools interim Superintendent Wanda Ortiz-Rivera said there is a great need for the latest funding as American Rescue Plan Act money fades out in September.

“We were afraid that if we didn't get this grant … we are going to have to stop the work that we started,” including the district’s restorative justice practices program that aims to use alternative measures to discipline students, she said.

The new funding will be used to add coaches to support students in the classroom, before- and after-school activities, and professional training for staff, Ortiz-Rivera said.

It also will go toward providing Regents exam preparation and paying fees for ACT and SAT tests, as well as tuition for dual-college credits for at-risk youth, according to the district.

Much of the work is to engage children and families so that students are less likely to miss school or drop out, officials said.

Vincent Leone, coordinator of funded programs at Brentwood schools, said a school culture that supports social emotional learning goes hand in hand with student learning.

“A lot of people mistakenly, certainly in our opinion, believe that by focusing on culture, you're compromising the quality of academic education. … We don't believe that in Brentwood," he said. “We focus on students’ social and emotional well-being to create the conditions that are necessary for academic learning to occur."

In West Hempstead, Superintendent Daniel Rehman said the money will help address chronic absenteeism — a term used to describe when a student misses more than 18 days of school a year — bring in more classroom aides and hire matrons for school buses that currently only have the driver.

“We recognize that chronic absenteeism is a problem. We recognize that there's still work that we could do on social emotional learning, but we didn't have the resources available to us,” he said. The grant would allow the district to “hire people that we wouldn't want to normally hire if we don't have the funding.”

Under the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance, the funding can be spent on a wide range of areas such as mental health and school safety, and on anti-bullying programs and anti-hate initiatives. Schools also can use it to hire school resource officers or purchase surveillance cameras.

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