School Board Q1

School Board Questionnaire

Question One

Mental health problems are on the rise among adolescents and young adults. According to a new study published by the American Psychological Association, rates of mood disorders and suicide related outcomes have increased significantly over the last decade in these age groups. What should the school system do to help students?

Mona Berkemeyer

No response

Kara Broderick

Not only is this a national trend but in recent surveys of our students and in feedback from parents and teachers, we know that this is a significant problem in Wyoming as well. The disruption and stress of the pandemic has only exacerbated this. It is important for schools to address these issues because learning doesn’t take place when anxiety and other mental health issues have taken over. As well, I believe that our schools should support all kids as they grow and provide a firm foundation from which to launch. It begins with knowing our students well not only through surveys but through strong teacher-student, counselor-student, and principal-student relationships. It takes building a school culture that focuses on a rigorous curriculum but also works to build the lifelong skill of resilience, valuing growth and curiosity over perfection. I believe it takes a school climate where children feel they are accepted, safe, and valued for who they are right now. With all of that as a foundation, we must then be prepared to offer professional intervention and all the resources that a school can offer to a child who is struggling. We must establish strong communications with families and be prepared to provide parents with resources and tools. When our current Board began the search for our next Superintendent, these concerns were at the forefront and continue to be so. We have been fortunate indeed to have found a leader whose commitment to kids is extraordinary. Tim Weber sets the tone for the entire district. He is a relationship builder who has attracted new principals who share these skills and who strongly value the hard work that teachers are doing every day on this front. They want to support teachers and give them the tools they need. As schools across the country grow in their understanding of the importance of social, emotional, and mental well-being, national and state standards are calling for districts to respond beginning at the level of primary. Our district has implemented important SEL programs at both the primary and middle school levels. In the high school, we have just begun student flex-time after listening to the needs of our students. We are excited to see how this well-designed strategy evolves to support kids. There is no one simple solution, but as a close-knit school district and community, we are in a uniquely strong position to address these issues.

Justin Buckner

Raising the awareness of mental health and challenges related to mental health will reduce the stigma that issues in this area can bring. This will encourage students struggling to get the help they need. Listening and being present with our students and families is crucial. We can help student support systems (teachers, parents, etc.) listen in ways that may identify if any existing or potential concerns are present. If there are issues identified, address them with urgency, care and concern. Encouraging self-care and coping practices for our students will enable them to work though tough moments throughout their days. We can also help students by providing access to counseling resources in the buildings – something the district is currently doing.

Jennifer Dillhoff

No response

Michael Evans

There are concerning trends in adolescent mental health over the past decade and these have been further exacerbated by the pandemic with early research indicating that students are experiencing increased stress and a reduction in access to mental health services. In our community, Wyoming’s data indicates that anxiety and mood disorders are the primary diagnoses. The district is already taking steps to improve community awareness of these issues though efforts like the Parent Partnership Series focused on Student Worry & Anxiety (6:00 PM on Oct. 20th). I would encourage the administration to continue these efforts and focus on comprehensive approaches to school based mental health. For example, Wyoming City Schools already utilizes a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) for student achievement and a similar model is recommend by the National Association of School Psychologists for addressing mental health. Essentially these means offering a continuum of care that addresses issues before they escalate. Finally, I would encourage the district to analyze and attempt to address known barriers to care including the refusal of certain insurance plans.

Lauren Keith

No response

Heather Yee

Knowing that rates of mood disorders and suicide have been on the rise for quite some time, I believe that being open about mental health and well being is key, as adults, to model and show our students. In school, our role as adults is to provide support and be a safe space for all of our kids, especially when they seek additional help or understanding. Some tangible things we are doing in our district to assist in this work are: having certified therapists available in all buildings, in addition to school counselors; in Middle School there are the courage and kindness retreats; in High School the Hope Squad has begun; screening surveys have been sent to families to identify specific family needs. This information is used for behind the scenes help; a new survey tool will be also sent out for the student perspective. While all of these items are great steps, it does not mean that our district is not continually looking for where we can also improve supports for students and their families. I hear parents asking for action steps on how they can help and look to the school for clear directives. We all realize that living through a pandemic has brought on additional stress, anxiety and fear for both students, parents and teachers. This has been a driving force to have the parent partnership series with the district. As a result of listening to student and community needs, the first topic will be Student Worry and Anxiety. Our school system can continue to have conversations, listen actively to students, provide assistance to parents and work as a team to help in this ever evolving area. We have the opportunity to lead by our example of prioritizing mental health so that all aspects of the student can thrive.

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