• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Emotional wellness of students discussed

Developing a wellness goal for Woodford County Public Schools was suggested by Board of Education member Sherri Springate during a recent work session discussing new goals for schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins in the coming year. Springate's idea to "develop a structure to ensure, monitor and support Woodford County students' emotional and physical well-being" garnered support from other board members. "We don't know that we're doing everything we can," said board member Margie Cleveland. "And if it were a goal, you (Hawkins) would have to convince us (as a board) that we're doing everything that we can." Every school has a wellness plan that includes healthy meals and physical activity initiatives, but Hawkins acknowledged, "The social-emotional piece is one that we're all struggling to get our arms around - on what we need to do better and what else can we do." A wellness plan may include a variety of initiatives, but having a sufficient number of guidance counselors and social workers in schools would certainly need to be a priority, said Springate. Prior to the May 15 work session, Springate said she was contacted by a site-based council member at Southside Elementary, which will only have one counselor next school year when its second counselor (whose salary was paid with a grant this year) departs. "So that leaves one counselor for almost 600 students. And it really is just not adequate," said Springate, a social worker with juvenile justice. "...I'm not sure about the numbers and the needs at other schools," she continued, "but I absolutely have seen just an incredible up-tick in homebound students and mental health referrals. We've seen suicides. We've seen substance abuse issues." Putting additional support systems, counselors and social workers in place - some with the assistance of community partners - will help students do better academically and also reduce behavioral issues in schools, Springate said. 'Plan of action' With the arrival of several new industrial companies to the county in the coming months and the additional tax revenue generated by those businesses, board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV suggested a superintendent goal to develop "a plan of action" on how to spend those dollars. "I'd rather be more strategic than tactical," he explained, while expressing support for the superintendent to work with other stakeholders in the school system on proposed uses for additional local tax revenue. Writing consistency The board supported a superintendent goal to put a structure in place to monitor and support schools in the growth of the teaching and learning of writing. "Because right now, I don't know that we have really good consistency on the teaching and learning of writing," said Hawkins, who suggested this goal. He described writing as "a key component of overall literacy" that requires an intentional focus with a structure to ensure consistency in every school. While he does not know what this structure will look like right now, Hawkins said he can inform board members as decisions are made on building a consistent structure for the teaching and learning of writing. "It's a way to ensure we're doing a good job of teaching the standards of writing, but then also ... how are we ensuring students are mastering those standards as they move through our school district," explained Hawkins. "Writing's probably one of the more difficult things to teach," he continued, because students need to learn how to express what they've learned in many subjects - not just in English classes. "It's just trying to be more systematic and intentional about it," added Hawkins. He described writing as "a way to put your thoughts on paper ... and I do think there's been a real push to incorporate more writing" in all subject areas. Developing a structure to ensure writing consistency in schools across the district will continue and not just be a one-year process, Hawkins said.

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