Bay Schools welcome faith and community leaders in showing students 'We Care'

Bay Schools Superintendent Jodie Hausmann invites clergy and city leaders to partner in supporting social, emotional and mental health needs of students.

Superintendent Jodie Hausmann welcomed faith leaders and city leaders from Bay Village last week to partner with the Bay Village City School District's efforts in supporting student social, emotional and mental health needs and development.

“We know that our students can only learn when they feel accepted, valued and cared for,” said Hausmann. “They also need to develop social skills to help them build good relationships, and they need to manage their emotions so they can make good decisions. It truly takes a community effort to support them in all these areas."

The district has organized myriad supports under its “We Care” umbrella of programs that go well beyond the academic requirements of education. These were presented to the audience as opportunities to understand the efforts underway in the schools, and to present possible opportunities for partnerships to spread those efforts throughout Bay Village.

Assistant Superintendent of Special Services, Marty Patton, and Bay resident and social worker Mary Wise presented how the district uses Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) to proactively address student behavior through a system of instruction and reward reinforcement. Staff members at all the schools contributed to developing common core values that schools could adapt to the different age groups in their buildings. Those values – RESPECT (self, school and community); ACT (safely, kindly and fairly); and ACCEPT (self, challenge and all others) – offer common vocabulary and continuity across grade levels as students move from grade to grade and from school to school.

Bay Middle School Principal Aaron Ereditario spoke about the district’s threat assessment protocol. Threat assessment teams include building administrators, counselors and psychologists trained to identify, assess and respond to threats of violence. The protocol was originally developed by the U.S. Secret Service and refined for education by Dr. Dewey Cornell, a forensic clinical psychologist and professor of education at the University of Virginia. Dr. Cornell directly trained the Bay Village Schools threat assessment teams. Following each threat assessment, the team develops a follow-up safety plan, restorative for the student involved when possible, for ongoing monitoring. Law enforcement, teachers and others are included in the assessment process when necessary.

“We want to neither underreact, nor overreact, to a threat,” said Ereditario. “Is it merely an emotional statement where the student is contrite? Or is it serious, and the student has the means and intent to carry it out? Our top priority is everyone’s safety and well-being.”

School counselor Megan Basel spoke about Youth Mental Health First Aid training for staff and adults in the community. The program trains adults to recognize signs of depression, addiction or other crises in adolescents and steer the youngster toward getting the needed help. Basel and Bay Middle School counselor Sarah Pavicic are certified trainers who have trained school staff and many parents and community members. They are willing to work with church groups and others to ensure that when a student approaches a trusted adult with a problem, those adults are prepared to effectively help.

Bay Village Police Chief Mark Spaetzel discussed the extraordinary police partnership with the schools. In addition to working with the city/schools partnership of Bay Family Services to provide support and referrals to students and families in crisis, school administrators and police led the county in developing a juvenile diversion program to help guide students involved in nonviolent charges with counseling and discipline outside the official court system. Bay Village Police have also worked closely with schools in safety training for active intruder situations, in parent and student training regarding internet safety, and in programs to fight substance abuse.

Bay Family Services social worker Jamie Mahnic focused on how the schools will address absenteeism. Recent legislation has decriminalized truancy and put more responsibility on school districts to track and intervene when attendance issues are detected. Often the families are not aware of the level of absenteeism of a student. Schools can reach out to families, even with home visits or off campus visits, to impress upon them the importance of regular school attendance.

“As a member of the clergy, you may be aware of families who are dealing with financial stressors, conflict, divorce, mental health concerns, etc. that could be impacting school attendance,” said Mahnic. “You can help by offering Bay Family Services as a resource to these families.”

Case Western Reserve University researcher in their Center for Adolescent Health, Jean Frank, and retired Bay High Principal, Jim Cahoon, reflected upon district results of the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The YRBS has been administrated by Bay High and Bay Middle School since Cahoon led Bay High, and CWRU administers the survey and analysis. Surveys are completely confidential for students. The self-reported, aggregate results have shown that while experimentation with tobacco, drugs and alcohol have been reduced at the middle school level, high school levels have held steady over time.

“Even 10 percent is still 88 kids,” said Cahoon. “Those are not statistics. Those are people. Several years ago, Mr. McAndrews (former Bay Middle School principal) were attending yet another funeral of a former student who died of an overdose or suicide. We said we had to do something.”

Cahoon described the Preventure program, a personality assessment program for targeted intervention based on risk tendencies that he and McAndrews investigated and helped bring to Bay Middle School. The program has strong evidence that it is more effective than prevention programs presented universally, or to all students. Students that score high on four key traits that correlate with drugs and alcohol use – impulsivity, sensation seeking, anxiety sensitivity and negative thinking – are enrolled in workshops designed to help them manage those trait-related thoughts and behaviors in various experience scenarios. Now in its second year, administrators expect to see an improvement in the YRBS results when these middle school classes take the survey in high school.

Hausmann said that more opportunities will be available for clergy and city leaders to work with the various programs at the Bay Village Schools. “Schools can’t do it alone,” she said. “We need the support of many others to create an environment where every child will thrive.”

Karen Derby

Director of Communications for the Bay Village City School District

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Volume 11, Issue 17, Posted 9:47 AM, 09.04.2019