Deer River School District offers Full Service Community School
She carries boxes of food to the King School Food Pantry for families in need. She hands snow pants to students who do not have any. She sits with a crying student. She talks on the phone to a family who lost their home. She correlates with a grandma who cannot drive the children in her care to school.
Meet Deanna Hron, King Elementary School Full Service Community School Coordinator.
“Several years ago as a kindergarten teacher, I realized I was not able to meet all the needs of my students,” Hron said.
Those unmet needs started interfering with her students’ ability to learn.
“I heard about a school in Duluth, Myers-Wilkins Elementary, that was implementing a strategy called Full Service Community Schools,” Hron said. “It is both a place and a strategy.”
The coordinator at King Elementary School since September 2018, Hron identifies the needs of students and families and organizes them with the resources to meet those needs.
“On any given day, we may see Deanna Hron arranging for a dentist to visit our school so our students can receive dental care, arranging for a representative from MNSURE to visit our school to ensure our families and staff have medical insurance, sending an email about a school or community event, scanning the classifieds for affordable housing for our homeless families, shopping for clothing and supplies for families who lost everything, talking with families, laughing with staff members, tirelessly working for our students, our families, and our school,” said Annee Arfsten, ADSIS Reading and Math Interventionist, who has known Hron for the last five years.
Deanna not only recognizes the needs of students, families and community members, she is the embodiment of “boots on the ground”, explained Mikki Anderson, King Elementary teacher.
“Deanna does work that is time consuming, emotionally and physically demanding, difficult, and sometimes thankless,” Anderson heartfully said.
Hron stated many of the district’s families don’t have reliable transportation and live up to 50 miles from school.
“Often if a student misses the bus their family doesn’t have a way to transport to school. Many of our students get on the bus at 7 a.m.,” Hron said. “If we are able, we will pick up so students don’t miss a whole day of school.”
She continued, “Transportation is a huge barrier for many of our families. Missing the bus means a day at home but we have been working on picking up students if needed. We are still looking for a sustainable solution to transportation.”
Adding to that, many of the district’s families are uninsured, so between transportation and having no health insurance, it is difficult to travel to vision, dental and medical appointments.
“The district is trying to reduce barriers to learning by looking at needs that students and families have that are not being met,” Hron said.
It is also by building partnerships with the community that the Deer River School District is able to coordinate services.
“King School has a food pantry on site, we partner with Second Harvest Food Bank to provide food to our families facing food insecurity,” Hron said. “The pantry is open during school hours, five days a week. We are able to partner with our bus drivers to deliver food when dropping off students. We deliver food to families that lack transportation also.”
Community Cafe also provides evening meals to families four days a week.
“We have partnered with a healthcare navigator to provide a monthly opportunities to apply for health insurance,” Hron continued. “The partnerships that have been fostered are what has made this strategy a success, we have found partners to provide dental services, vision services, winter clothing and school supplies.”
But most importantly, her job provides the opportunity to eliminate barriers that interfere with a students ability to learn, which is the goal of the full service model.
“Research and experience tell us that all of our young people need a wide range of learning opportunities and supports to succeed,” Hron explained. “A quality academic program is necessary, but it is not sufficient.”
Collaboration, cooperation and partnerships within the community, are eliminating barriers to learning.
“Due to several partnerships there are 10 students who are wearing glasses that were identified as needing glasses during vision screening,” Hron said.
Hron is also trauma-informed and recognizes the impact negative experiences can have on every aspect of someone’s life.
“She does an amazing job of seeing value in every human being she works with. She understands systems and knows what it takes to effect change and makes things happen, even things other people say are impossible. Deanna is a doer, a force, and is a champion and advocate for those who do not always have a voice,” Anderson gratefully said.
The community school model is supported by administration and the school board, and is funded by the district. Initially it was funded by a grant.
“I am very proud of the program she has built, I am consistently in awe of her persistence and perseverance, and I am incredibly fortunate to call her my friend,” Anderson said.
Kayleen Monacelli, Boys and Girls Club Unit Director, added Hron is a “gem in our community.”
“She cares deeply about everyone she crosses paths with. Deanna understands how important relationships are and goes the extra mile to create those positive interactions, “ Monacelli said. “She meets families where they are, without judgement and begins to build. She has been an inspiration to me in the workplace as well as in my personal life as I often find myself asking, ‘What would Deanna do?’.”
Daisy Mundt, Deer River Social Worker & PBIS Coach, stated Hron is actually the reason Deer River decided to hire a social worker six years ago when Mundt started.
“When I first started, Deanna was a kindergarten teacher and also the Deer River Education Union President. Through her work with the Union she was able to utilize resources to help launch the “Vote Y.E.S.” (Youth, Early Childhood and Seniors) which helped our district to pass the referendum which funded the new wing of the school which houses Early Childhood, Kindergarten and a Senior Center,” Mundt said. “Deanna was also instrumental in utilizing her contacts through the union to facilitate our district not only learning about what it means to be a Full Service Community School, but also being awarded a grant which launched our school into being able to start this program.”
Fifth Grade Elementary Teacher, Jodi Grose, had an experience with Hron right before Christmas that she will never forget.
“Every year my church collects non-perishables and then uses those to put food baskets together for families in need over the holidays. One day in December, Deanna was sharing with me about four families who were in crisis and needing food,” Grose said. “I put in a request at my church and was able to get four food baskets for those families. Deanna and I drove to their homes to deliver the food after school one day and my eyes were opened to how much she knows about and cares for the people she serves. Families welcome her into their homes, see her as a friend, ask her for help and believe that she is “for” them! It was so amazing to witness!! Deanna is building bridges between our community and the school that are priceless and are going to mean change for the better. Every kid needs a Deanna in their corner!”
Hron has worked for the Deer River School District since 1988 and grew up in Deer River. She has a daughter who graduated from Deer River High School.