We recognize that the social emotional well-being of our students and staff during these challenging times is critically important. The district has made available resources and referrals to address mental health, behavioral, and emotional needs of students, faculty, and staff when school reopens for in-person instructions.
GASD has established a Social-Emotional team in the school district. The group was created and first met in the summer of 2017 to develop a district-wide SEL curriculum for K-12. The team is comprised of teachers, social workers, behavioral specialists, and administrators. The framework developed is based on CASEL’s five competencies: self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and self-management.
Community Resources to help students
- GASD has partnered with community and regional agencies throughout the past three years to support struggling Mental Health students.
- Mental Health Association of Fulton and Montgomery Counties provides a trauma trained social worker for us at the elementary level.
- Berkshire Farms provides the district with a trauma trained social worker at the middle school, and the Department of Social Services houses a case manager in our middle school.
- The high school has a program in place for our 9th and 10th graders called PREP: Personalized Responsive Education Program. Participants learn strategies that support them in continuing to strengthen positive relationships and to resolve conflicts productively. The program focuses on instruction in skills for emotional regulation and frustration tolerance. We are starting this program at the middle school this school year.
- GASD has contracted with an agency from Syracuse called Peaceful Schools. The agency has provided training for staff on trauma-informed practices, restorative practices, restorative circles, and peer mediation. Peaceful Schools works with the district throughout the school year, as well as providing training in the summer.
- The Children’s Clinic from St. Mary’s Healthcare provides support in the schools for children who have been medically diagnosed with a Mental Health concern. They are visible in each building.
- GASD recommends to parents and families,who need support an agency called Cornerstone. The agency is based out of Central New York but has licensed Social Workers throughout the state. They provide mobile mental health services and will work with entire families or individuals at their homes or an agreed-upon location.
- The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Prevention Council oversees a program through the Creative Connections Clubhouse. Council workers come to the high school to work with groups of students on social awareness and self-management skills.
Solutions for Social-Emotional/ Mental Health needs as students re-enter school
The SEL Team will meet regularly to lead a coordinated approach and continuous improvement to SEL implementation.
Establish Baseline Measures
A baseline screening tool will be implemented with children who present with difficulties. The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment-Mini (DESSA mini) is a short eight-question assessment that may be used. Children who seem at risk would then be provided the UCLA brief COVID 19 Screen for Child/Adolescent PTSD. Both instruments will need a social-worker, behavior specialist, or other trained professionals for implementation. Children who need more intensive help will be referred to one of the agencies listed above with parental permission.
Each building will submit to the SEL team a plan on how they will deliver the SEL lessons in their buildings, i.e., middle school imbeds the lessons into their morning announcements in each classroom and elementary schools utilize their morning meetings for SEL lessons.
Professional Development will be offered on restorative practices, restorative circles, trauma-informed teaching are being provided throughout this summer and will continue throughout the school year for not only classroom teachers but for all staff who work in the district.
Teachers will provide opportunities for students to rebuild connections through guided discussions/restorative circles focused on the return to school, changing environment, and other topics of concern. If there seems to be a student or two having more significant difficulties than expected, refer the student to the identified SEL person in your building. This person may be the guidance counselor, social worker, school psychologist, or behavior specialist.
GASD staff meet every other week to talk about what is working, where they need additional supports, how to communicate better with teachers and building leaders, and other concerns that they may bring to the table. On the team, we have parents, Board of Education member/mom, building principal, Special Education director, other administrators, teachers, bus driver, IT personnel, and communications specialist, and teacher aides. At various times we include the director of county health, head of MHA, representatives from St. Mary’s Healthcare, and others as topics arise.
- Provide staff with EAP resources and post resource contact information through email and in staff restrooms and faculty rooms.
- Use faculty meetings and PLCs as support to check in with each other and discuss concerns. Run restorative circles for staff.
- Professional Development on self-care (the Montgomery County Public Health Department overseeing a session for staff this summer)
- Mindfulness experiences led by Peaceful Schools
Social-Emotional/Mental Health Professional Development opportunities this summer
- Book Study through NYSUT Grant Rita Floess and Bernice Rivera: Waking Up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
- Three, 1-hour sessions training sessions with the Montgomery County Department of Health on:
- Returning to school for elementary students (proper safety, cleaning, etc)
- Returning to school for secondary students (proper safety, cleaning, etc.)
- Self-care/SEL/Mental health for staff and how to help students
- Peaceful Schools Trauma-informed practices
- Peaceful Schools Introduction to Adverse Childhood Experiences Study
- Peaceful Schools Virtual Restorative practices training
- Peaceful Schools Virtual Circles training. District staff who have been through Restorative Practices with Peaceful Schools will run various restorative circles
- Middle school opening PREP program modeled after the high school