About CIS

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Our work expands on CharacterStrong’s mission of "making the world a more loving place through education" by supporting school systems with transformational implementation support that results in sustainable implementation of effective practices that enable each student to access the experiences they need to be well, engage fully in the learning experience, and develop competencies that set them up for life success.

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Produce a Return on Investment.

Produce a Return on Investment.

Most implementation efforts (90%) will fail to produce a return on investment due to common barriers (e.g. silos, lack of clarity, issues with staff buy-in/readiness to change, implementation overload, etc.). Strategically navigating these common barriers is essential for the success of any implementation effort so students ultimately receive and benefit from effective practices.

Evidence-based  practice  requires
evidence-based  implementation. 

Identifying and training educators on effective student-facing programs or practices (e.g., SEL curriculum, AVID, culturally responsive teaching strategies, evidence-based literacy curriculum, Tier 2 interventions, etc.) is insufficient to achieve meaningful changes in student outcomes.

Ultimately, leaders and staff need to adopt the program or practice, persist with implementing the program or practice to achieve high fidelity, and sustain the program or practice so it will continue to produce positive outcomes for students.

in Your Schools

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Many schools are confronted with implementation gaps that reflect a discrepancy between what works to improve students outcomes and what is actually being implemented for students to receive.

These implementation
gaps ➡️ lead to: access gaps.

Access gaps = students not receiving the experiences and support they need.

We specialize in customizing implementation supports to district and school partners to increase internal capacity to achieve successful implementation of effective practices that result in better and more equitable outcomes for students.

We focus on the systems of support the adults in schools need to explore and identify student-facing solutions, prepare them to implement the identified solution, and support them to deliver effective student-facing practices with fidelity.

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Who We Are

We are a multi-disciplinary group with extensive experience supporting a variety of implementation efforts in school systems across the United States (rural, suburban, urban). We pride ourselves on building trusting relationships and understanding the perspective and needs of educators across all levels of the educational ecosystem.

Felisha Santiago recently served in public education overseeing PBIS, Restorative Practices and Social Emotional Learning under the MTSS Framework as a District Climate and Culture Coordinator. Her 14 year expertise ranges from a district secretary, special education aide, teacher at all grade levels, site administrator designee, Department Lead, District Specialist and District Administrator. She led over 25 schools in her district to obtain state of CA PBIS recognition that ranged from Bronze to Platinum. She has a passion for rooting for the whole child work, training staff in effective practices and giving a voice back to our students.

Megan Gruis, Ed.S., LSC, was fortunate to serve in a variety of K-12 settings both at the building level and district level for nearly 20 years. During that time, she delivered practices, supported professional development and led team initiatives focused on social, emotional, behavioral and academic integration. During 10 of those years in education, she also consulted for the Minnesota State Implementation Team, providing training, coaching, and evaluation supports to schools and districts working to adopt and integrate PBIS into the fabric of their schools. Megan currently serves as the Executive Director of Customized Implementation Supports where she leads the CIS Team focused on supporting schools and districts with the strategic implementation of social, emotional, behavioral, and academic frameworks to enhance student outcomes.

Cory Notestine spent the last 14 years working in rural and urban school settings across North Carolina and Colorado as a school counselor and district leader. Over the past 7 years he's led successful district-wide SEL curriculum adoption and implementation; redesigned and integrated MTSS teaming, protocols, and service delivery; and created a behavioral matrix that was student centered and restorative in nature. He is passionate about thoughtful and timely change management, the intersection of politics and education, and how to identify high leverage action items to increase successful implementation.

Dr. Clay Cook is the Chief Development Officer at CharacterStrong and is an implementation scientist, psychologist, and former paraprofessional and middle school math teacher. He has spent the past 15 years working in partnership with school systems across the country to support the implementation of effective practices that promote better and more equitable outcomes for students. He has been a professor and researcher at three universities (Louisiana State University, University of Washington and University of Minnesota) studying topics such as implementation of evidence-based practices, educator well-being and resilience, social-emotional learning, and youth mental health. He has obtained over 20 million dollars in grant funding for his research and published over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles. For his work, he has been invited to the White House and served on expert panels with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Education.

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Behavior Change

We ground our work in adult behavior change and implementation science. We use a proven implementation process framework that helps a school system locate where they are at in the process and strategize how to accomplish key objectives at each stage of the implementation process to reach sustainable implementation and produce meaningful changes in student outcomes.

Leadership Teams

Because there is no successful implementation without a dedicated leadership team, we build the capacity of district and site-based shared leadership teams to use knowledge, tools, and methods derived from implementation science.

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Evidence-Based Facilitation

We also use evidence-based facilitation processes and tools, including the backwards designing of logic models that reflect theories of action, strategy mapping, and gradual release of responsibilities to help school systems at each stage of the implementation process.