DANVERS — Superintendent Heidi Riccio is pleased to announce that Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School has been awarded nearly $79,000 from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) Supporting Students’ Behavioral and Mental Health and Wellness Fund.
The grant will fund the District’s ongoing efforts to strengthen services and support programs in place to promote student social emotional, behavioral and mental health and wellbeing, specifically by supporting a transition to a new disciplinary philosophy and promoting substance use prevention, among other initiatives.
“Supporting and promoting social emotional learning as well as mental and behavioral health is a multifaceted, complex task, and we’re very thankful DESE recognized our need as we work to implement new programs and provide professional development trainings to meet our goals in these areas,” Superintendent Heidi Riccio said. “These funds will directly help our current students, as well as generations of students to come.”
Last year, the District created a Social Emotional Learning team to complete a School Assessment for Safety and Security. Alongside this team, the Essex Tech Data team analyzed the results of recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment screening, outside metal health placement data, attendance rates and discipline to identify the District’s strengths and areas of potential growth to further support students with a variety of social and emotional needs. The District also launched the Success through Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility (SOAR) Program, with the goal of creating a culture reflecting those values and to address work-related skills as an essential component of student preparedness.
Last spring, the District began its partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital’s Think: Kids Collaborative Problem Solving Program to create a readiness assessment outlining goals for the 2020-2021 school year.
Utilizing this assessment, the District identified that Collaborative Problem Solving philosophies align with the philosophy of the staff at Essex Tech and a five year implementation plan was developed. Collaborative Problem Solving will ensure that historically at-risk populations, such as those with challenging behaviors in the classroom and on campus who would previously have received punitive measures such as out-of-school suspension, are helped in a supportive, pro-social way that encourages skill development and reflection.
The District has also identified the following priorities for the 2020-2021 school year:
- Continue initiatives to train and support staff in implementing the Collaborative Problem Solving method as a response to school-wide discipline, which includes training and coaching teachers on how to communicate in an effective, trauma-informed, evidence-based method with students who are exhibiting challenging behaviors.
- Develop an evidence-based substance use/vaping education after school course for students who are caught or suspected of using substances on-campus, as a response to discipline, which includes continuing to train teachers/staff involved in the CATCH My Breath curriculum, a youth e-cigarette and vaping prevention program, and conduct training around motivational interviewing.
The grant will allow the District to fund the coaching of all staff in Collaborative Problem Solving; the development of an after-school substance abuse program utilizing consultations from community resources; a parent program presentation of Collaborative Problem Solving supported by Massachusetts General Hospital; bi-monthly coaching sessions for staff during professional development time throughout the school year; and a social emotional learning assessment tool providing curriculum development and resources.
The District also plans this year to implement curriculum from the Herren Project, former professional basketball player Christopher Herren’s foundation, to address student substance use.
In 2021, the district will begin working with an equity coach to assist in creating a more inclusive environment. On Friday, September 11, Essex Tech will welcome Dr. Adolph Brown to share his experiences with race and equity through love and empathy with District staff. The event will cap off nearly two weeks of professional learning and training opportunities as the school welcomes students back into the building.