Several Initiatives are Planned to Address Social and Emotional Needs
Dear Members of the Hatfield Public School District:
I wanted to take this opportunity to update the community about the many activities and initiatives that are taking place, both in our schools and in our community, that support the social and emotional goal, as outlined in the District Improvement Plan.
The goal of the District Improvement Plan reads: By the end of the 2018-19 school year, the Hatfield Public Schools will provide increased supports for all students within the regular education classroom at all grade levels to include 1) High quality professional development for staff in differentiated instruction and in learning strategies to address both the academic and social needs of all students, 2) Appropriate regular education academic interventions and support to students both in and out of the classroom, 3) Provide students and/or parents opportunities for social/emotional support regarding anxiety as it pertains to schoolwork and to better manage work outside of school.
Some of the activities planned this year to help to address this goal include·
School Participation on the Hatfield Mental Health Awareness Committee. The Committee consists of members of the Hatfield community and evolved out of the Community Forum on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention held at the Hatfield Elementary School last year. The Committee is planning several upcoming community events designed to bring attention to and support for mental health needs in Hatfield. The first event is entitled "Managing Seasonal Stress and Anxiety" and is scheduled for November 17 at 6 pm at the Hatfield Elementary School. The keynote speaker, Karin Jeffers, will offer insight into managing stress and anxiety during the holiday and winter seasons followed by a question and answer session with guest panelists. Topics include: Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD), college application and transitional stress, managing grief and loss and coping with loneliness during the holiday season. Panelist include: Dr. Jennifer Higgins, Vice President, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Western Mass Chapter; Valarie Flory, Associate Director Highland Valley Elder Services; and Casey Pescitelli, Guidance Counselor, Smith Academy. This event is free and open to the community. Childcare is available.
SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program. The Hatfield Public Schools recently sent four staff members to receive training on the SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program. This training prepares school staff and community members to implement the SOS Program for middle and high school youth, and to provide gatekeeper training to adults in their schools and communities. Topics include:
1) Warning signs, risk factors and symptoms of depression and suicide in youth. 2) How to respond to youth at risk. 3)The SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program implementation steps. 4) Talking to youth about suicide including “Time to ACT” video & sample student discussion. 5) Training adults in your schools and communities to support at-risk youth in seeking help, and 6) Barriers to youth suicide prevention and action steps to overcome them. The program will be implemented at Smith Academy and for grade 6 at the Hatfield Elementary School.
Practical Strategies, Tools for Anxiety-Related or Oppositional Behaviors. In November, eight teachers will be attending a full-day workshop presented by Jessica Minahan. Jessica is a licensed and board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), author, special educator, and consultant to schools internationally. Since 2000 she has worked with students who struggle with mental health issues and challenging behavior in public school systems. She specializes in training staff and creating behavior intervention plans for students who demonstrate explosive and unsafe behavior. She also works with students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities, anxiety disorders, or high functioning Autism. Her particular interest is to serve these students by combining behavioral interventions with a comprehensive knowledge of best practices for those with complex mental health profiles and learning needs. Teachers will bring back strategies from the training share with others and to implement in their classrooms. Teachers will report out at a follow up session with Jessica in the Spring.
Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives individual the skills they need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis. Mental Health First Aid is likened to CPR in that it is a first-responder training that teaches people how to respond if faced with mental health issues for people aged 12-18 years old. Training will be scheduled during an upcoming professional development day for staff at both schools. The Hatfield Mental Health Awareness Committee is also exploring offering this training to community members on a Saturday this Spring.
Houses at HES. Every student in grades K-6 has randomly been assigned a "house". This "house" is simply a group of 6 or 7 students from different grade levels that meets with an adult each month to discuss how they can make a positive impact in their school. Each month a character trait is focused on. These meetings allow students to connect with an adult that they see but may not be familiar with on a non academic level. It also allows students to make connections with students in other grade levels. "Houses" will have an opportunity to share with the whole school community during the Whole School Meetings.
Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). In January, Smith Academy will begin implementing the DPH SBIRT program for 65 students in grades 7 and 9 using the CRAFFT questionnaire currently being recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The CRAFFT Screening tool is a short clinical assessment tool designed to screen for substance-related risks and problems in adolescents. CRAFFT stands for the key words of the 6 items in the second section of the assessment -Care, Relax, Forget, Friends, Trouble. Copies of the CRAFFT tool will be sent to parents with the choice to opt-out prior to the screening. Students will also be educated about CRAFFT prior to the screening date with brief classroom visits and will be given the choice to opt-out prior to the screening. CRAFFT screenings interviews will be conducted privately with the school nurse as part of routine health screenings (vision, hearing, posture). Per DPH requirements, individual student responses will not be kept in any student health or school records. Students will be informed prior to the interview that those deemed at risk will be referred either to the school counselor or to outside intervention, as appropriate. Aggregate data will compiled for state reporting purposes.
SPIFFY Prevention Needs Assessment Survey. Students in grades 8, 10, and 12 will also be participating in the SPIFFY Survey. Every two years students throughout Hampshire County take part in a survey to measure both protective factors and risk factors. Each school receives a custom report outlining both strengths and areas of concern. The data is reported by grade level and is shared with both the School Committee and with the Health and Wellness Committee. The data is also posted on the school website. The information is used by school staff in the planning of curriculum and with the allocation of supports and resources in the schools.
Ongoing activities within the district include the implementation of the 'Second Step" and "Steps to Respect" bullying prevention programs at the Elementary School and "Owning Up" at Smith Academy. Our Students athletes continue to undergo both anti-hazing training and concussion prevention training. In September, Dr. Ruth Potee, board-certified nationally recognized expert on addiction, spoke to several of our athletes on the dangers of prescription pain killers. Our adjustment counselors and guidance counselor continue to meet with students, both in small groups, and individually to address social and emotional concerns. Buidling Support Teams also meet regularly to discuss student concerns. Staff at both schools have also undergone trainings this year in Civil Rights, Suicide Prevention and Gender-Identity Awareness. Certain staff members will also be attending the NWDA's Safe School Summit this year.
The teachers and staff in the Hatfield Public Schools recognize the importance of meeting the needs of the whole child. When students feel safe and supportive, both at school and in the community, they will invariably do better with their academics. None of the efforts we do in the school would work well without the continued support of the parents and guardians.
John F. Robert