Student Services Expanding
New Staff Help Provide Socio-Emotional Tools
Long gone are the days in which schools were responsible for just the mastery of basic reading, writing and math skills.
The needs of our students are greater than ever, and schools — more than ever — are looked to as a key resource for all of the challenges and traumas facing children and their families.
According to 2016 Scholastic survey of almost 5,000 public school educators, a majority of principals reported that their students:
• Experienced family or personal crisis
• Needed mental health services
• Lived in poverty
• Came to school hungry
• Required health care services
• Were homeless
• Needed support as an English language learner.
According to Scholastic, 95 percent of principals reported having students experiencing personal or family crisis. Schools, accordingly, have incorporated social-emotional learning into their curriculum programs to help students learn to manage their emotions, set goals, and learn how to make good decisions.
Kalamazoo Public Schools was very lucky over the last two years to add three new positions to facilitate a multipronged system of supports in our schools.
Heather Misner has worked for KPS for 20 years as a teacher, administrator and instructional coach. But, two years ago she took on the role of climate and culture coach for the district. Her position is focused on supporting school staff as they implement strategies that create a positive school climate and support academic and behavioral expectations.
This year Shannon Parlato, who has worked for the school district for 16 years as an elementary school educator and teacher mentor, was hired as a Tier 2/3 Interventionist. When one looks at the interventions a school can offer students, the Tier 1 basic interventions address the needs of about 80 to 90 percent of the children in the district.
Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions are needed for about 10 to 15 percent of the children. The goal of Parlato’s position is to help schools develop support plans to help students succeed. Parlato works not just with supports in the school, but she can help create an integrated service plan for the student that involves the parents, school and community resources.
The third Student Services position added to the district was that of restorative reentry coach. Katelyn Root brings a background in juvenile and social justice, youth programming, mindfulness in schools, mental health, and family therapy to this role. She is examining barriers that keep students and families from having a strong, positive attendance record.
These staff members join an expanded team of four clinical social workers who have been added over the past two years. They, too, are focused on helping students and families find the school and community resources they need to be successful in KPS.
According to the website for the Learning Policy Institute, millions of children every year are affected by adversity, ranging from violence to food insecurity. These adverse life conditions can result in stress, attention deficits and behavior issues.
That reality requires schools to infuse their teaching with social and emotional learning and supports that help children learn to deal with trauma, manage stress, and to express their frustrations and fears in positive and productive ways.
We know that it is important for students to learn to read and write and calculate. In today's world, it is also essential that we provide our schools, students and families with the socioemotional support they need, so our children are prepared to tackle those academic challenges.