Wellness partnership — The Healdsburg Unified School District will partner with the Hanna Institute to create a social/emotional wellness program for all students, K-12.

Board also reviews charter school report, equity task force report

In addition to a busy night of public comments the Healdsburg Unified School District Board of Trustees also had a busy night of school reports, presentations and action items at its May 15 meeting.

In a unanimous vote the board decided to partner with the International Trauma Center and the Hanna Institute for a district-wide social/emotional wellness program that will include an all staff training on trauma-informed practices in order to provide emotional support for students.

According to Diane Conger, director of student support services, the aim of the program is to “Build upon previous work and develop a network of supports for our struggling students.”

“We can estimate, based on a 2016 survey, that about 22% of our students have four or more adverse childhood experiences, and what they know about that is that it presents a host of health issues down the road … Increased rates of suicide, even heart disease, cancer, things like that,” Conger said. “On a positive note, as children we have the ability to rewire a brain and develop resilience in our students.”

She added that if a student has gone through an experience of abuse, divorce or neglect it can often translate to behavioral issues, or increased absenteeism, drug use and alcoholism at the junior high and high school level.

With the Hanna Institute partnership, all staff including teachers, administrators and custodians will learn how to recognize signs of trauma and how to respond to and create systems for de-escalating behavior.

The proposed scope of service includes: consultation with HUSD and site assessments and interviews among other consulting steps to design and implement an evidence based, all hazards mitigation training program, the launch of a district-wide school based Trauma Response Network and Toxic Stress Reduction, and training on de-escalation protocols among other psychological first aid practices.

It also includes helping the district with evidence-based protocols for de-escalating disruptive behavior in Pre-K and early elementary school and help with a social and emotional wellness evaluation of students during the 2019-20 school year.

The package will cost $42,000.

Trustee Mike Potmesil voiced his support for the program but asked how the extensive training would be done.

Conger said the training would take six full days and would be comprised of three training modules.

Training will start Aug. 12.

Equity Task Force Report

Also on Wednesday’s agenda was an update on task force findings from its several workshops, listening campaigns and February town hall meetings.

Perhaps the biggest takeaways from the report were recommendations to eliminate practices that separate students by language/race by taking a look at the possibility of configuring one K-5 school and one kindergarten program and healing and repairing trust in the community by adding a community liaison and more bilingual staff among other suggestion.

“This is a big one,” said Healdsburg Unified School District Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel. “We are going to form a working group and do a design process that examines the best elementary program to configure and establish one elementary school. That is the recommendation from the community. It was loud and clear through the task force.”

Vanden Heuvel added that it will later come to the board as a recommendation.

“I am not saying this is my decision and it’s made, please do not hear that. We will still have an HES campus and a Fitch Mountain Campus and I do not think anyone is looking at changing grade configuration,” he said.

He also emphasized that if the schools were to be reconfigured, project-based learning would still be used.

In terms of taking a look at healing the relationship within the community and repairing trust, the task force is recommending the addition of a community liaison, conducting regular town hall meetings on certain topics, creating a Spanish Institute for teachers as not all teachers are bilingual, creating a family night or a student-led conference at Healdsburg Junior High and making sure parents and teachers have a second conference for kids who are below grade level.

The report also found that there needs to be an improvement in communication practices and transparency throughout the district. Suggested practices to improve communication include: holding a parent engagement night, set up a coffee with the administration event, make sure parents know how to access the online portals and email and have a once-a-month, all-staff check in with administrators about any topic among a few other ideas.

There was also an idea of creating more of shared language of equity by having parent education around equity and implicit bias annually, implement equity curriculum and creating professional development on equity.

While there were only a few comments during the public comment session, parents seemed to support the ideas, especially the concept of creating one school and one kindergarten program.

Holly Fox, the mother of an incoming kindergartener, said of the recommendation, “These changes as described by the superintendent would make small classes and the popular, effective, project-based learning available to all of our kindergarteners. This is a vital first step in rebuilding our elementary school programs into one school.”

Next steps for the task force include developing a specific action plan for board approval in June, communicate the plan to all stakeholders, consider combined kindergartens in 2019-20, implement implicit bias training for the board of trustees in the fall and establish subcommittees for the elementary school configuration.

Annual charter school report

Fitch Mountain campus principal Erika McGuire gave the annual charter school report, which is required as a part of the chartering process.

Overall, the bulk of charter school kids from first to fifth grade are at or above grade level in math. Third to fifth graders are above the standard in standardized test scores in English language arts and math.

Only 33% of first graders were at or above the grade level for reading, however, grades two to five saw a higher percentage in the 70s and mid-80s.

In student surveys, 75% of third to fifth graders said they feel like they belong to a community; 66% of those students surveyed said they have fun learning; 49% said they are challenged by the work they do; and 73% say they are encouraged to be creative.

In a survey of all students, 90% said their teacher cared about them, 86% said their teacher thinks they will be successful, 78% said they’re learning using tech tools and 70% said project based learning helps them to learn to work with others.

McGuire said they will continue to implement the math action plans, the new History and Social Science framework and continue work on project based learning and building a strong sense of community.

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