Saturday, October 29, 2016

Seniors Speak and Thoughts on Questions in the Community

Dr. Campbell (bottom row, L) with her Principal's
Advisory Group

Last Tuesday, I met with my Principal's Advisory group for the first time this year. Each year, I ask counselors and administrators to recommend a group of seniors with diverse perspectives and experiences who meet with me monthly.  My PAG is my sounding board and a way for me to stay connected to the senior class. Our meeting came at the perfect time. I needed to hear their thoughts and voices and to have a sense of the their perspectives.

I asked them to respond anonymously in writing to the prompt, "I am feeling..." with anything they'd be willing to share about how they are doing. As to be expected, they expressed a range of feelings. Some wrote about stress leading up to the November 1st college application deadline, sadness about the loss of two members of the senior class, the need for more communication, feeling overwhelmed by school work, sports, and other activities. They also wrote about hope that our community would come together during this difficult time and the desire to be part of that effort. And they felt many of these things all at once:

I am feeling stressed about getting into college and empowered to make A-B better.
I am feeling a lot of different emotions at different times.

Similarly, in the hours and days following Thomas Zarola's death, I began receiving a range of feedback, questions, and suggestions from members of the parent/guardian community. Due to the volume of these emails and our need to continue our focus on supporting students and staff in the coming weeks, I thought I'd share some information here to address the themes that emerged.

Supporting our Students
Our Counseling Department currently provides ongoing education and support for students at various grade levels related to mental health and suicide prevention. With the recent events at the high school, our Counseling Department Chair Todd Chicko and Chairperson of Psychological Services Susan Root have partnered with Dr. Larry Berkowitz, Director at Riverside Trauma Center, to adapt an existing curriculum. In the coming weeks, members of our counseling department staff will visit classes to do a presentation and talk with students in all grade levels about mental health including signs of depression, how to ask for supports, and how to help a friend who is struggling.

In Advisory this coming week, we have asked Advisory leaders to do a check-in activity with students to gauge their current needs and to have a sense of their questions and concerns so that we can continue to be responsive to them.

Dean of Students Maurin O'Grady and I met with a group of senior leaders on Friday and will continue to partner with students to be responsive while maintaining the routine at school that many students need to feel supported.  In partnership with student leaders, we are putting into place some additional ways for students to have voice in a constructive, empowered way.

Student leaders continue to step up and will be leading positive, community-building activities both in Advisory and informally over the coming weeks. They are remarkable in their desire to have a positive impact and help us all to feel more connected during this time.

For our Community
I hope you have seen Dr. Brand's recent email regarding upcoming presentations for adults in our community, and we hope that you will participate in these opportunities to learn together.

Thursday 11/3  7-8pm      Dr. Robert Evans, Mental Health: Keeping our Kids Safe Details Here

Tuesday 11/8  7-8:30pm    Dr. Denise Pope The Well-Balanced Student  Details Here

Monday 11/14 7-8:15pm   Maria Trozzi Five to Thrive: A Conversation about the Stresses of                                                         Parenting Kids Today Details Here

Tuesday 11/15  1pm          Danny's Place Youth Services Talk Saves Lives program by the
                                            American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Details Here

On November 8th, our entire district will come together for a day of Professional Learning related to our Challenge Success partnership, which continues to be our priority this year in helping our students to have healthier, more balanced lives. For more information on the district's Wellness Committee update on school start times and other aspects of student wellness, click here.

Thank you to the members of the community who have sent messages in support of our staff during this time. Your kind words have been sincerely appreciated.

I was struck by the response of one of my Principal's Advisory seniors who wrote, I am feeling more fine than I think I should be feeling. And I have heard this sentiment expressed by other students as well. Completely as to be expected, our students are in a wide range of places emotionally, and it is important for them to feel validated and supported. We will continue to put our focus on the wellbeing of our students and staff in the coming weeks. Thank you for your continued support as we work together to do so.