Miss Kendra Program Results

“I want to shout it from the rooftops!” responded Pat Sauer.  Our three-year pilot of the Miss Kendra Program at Willow Lane Elementary School in White Bear Lake showed a 71% decrease in behavior-related visits to the principal’s office.  This reduction in serious behavior incidents is impressive and it will continue to decrease as the program continues.  This program calms the whole school, so principals and teachers have time to do the work they have been trained to do – teach children.

Decreasing office referrals and suspensions have been the consistent results of this program in other states and so the results were not a surprise.  However, one incredibly important outcome that did surprise us was when the Miss Kendra Program helped identify a sexual predator in the community.  The long-term benefits for child well-being are huge!

The Miss Kendra Program offers ½ hour of programming each week in the classroom.  The White Bear Lake School District uses it as a Tier 1 Intervention in their social-emotional plan at the elementary schools. Every student in the school gets Miss Kendra Time.  The curriculum is built around the legend of a woman who wants to know children’s worries.  The children recite Miss Kendra’s List of things that could be causing concern or stress.  A concern regarding racial equity has recently been added to the list.

At the elementary schools, children write letters to Miss Kendra and Miss Kendra writes back to every child.  It turns out that when children share their worries and are not carrying them silently alone, they are calmer and can concentrate on school.  Miss Kendra is a social buffer for the stress children are carrying.  It is costly to have enough social workers or therapists for every child in the school with worries, but Miss Kendra can help with some of the lighter worries, freeing up social workers and therapists to handle the bigger worries (Tier 2 & 3 Interventions of the social-emotional plan).  In secondary schools, the program similarly decreases behavior issues in schools, but the program looks different for the older kids.

Pilots of the Miss Kendra Program are in different stages at St. Paul City School; Paladin Career and Technical High School; Birch Lake and Vadnais Heights Elementary Schools.  Three more schools are waiting to begin the Miss Kendra Program when students return to in-person learning.  Schools will pilot one of two models; a teacher-led model or a specialist-led model that evolves into the teacher-led model for sustainability (teacher-led programs are more affordable for the school).

Our four-year journey with Miss Kendra has not been all success, but we have learned from each situation. Schools that are in turnaround mode have too much going on to add this new program effectively.  Miss Kendra is not the best fit in schools that have a punishment-based discipline program.

The schools where Miss Kendra is working share key characteristics:

  1. The principal is dedicated to implementing the program even when there are bumps along the way. They recognize it takes time for any new program to work in schools.
  2. It helps when the school staff has some background knowledge of trauma and the effects it has on children and their behavior.
  3. When teachers are willing to give the program a chance, it really takes off and they love the closer relationship they have with their students.

As a Foundation committed to child well-being, we are so excited about the Miss Kendra Program and the calming effect it is having on children and schools.  We are grateful to the principals, teachers and staff in our pilot schools that took a chance and tried something new to help children feel supported when worries and concerns could overwhelm them.

We are putting a “Great Results” page on our website soon to highlight the amazing results our grantees are getting across our funding priorities.  It is our way of “shouting them from the rooftop!”