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Superintendent's Update - August 26, 2022

From the Office of the Superintendent:

 

BOARD OF EDUCATION AGENDA CALENDAR 

The tentative board calendar can be found HERE. The five priority areas will appear on the calendar multiple times throughout the year.   

SCHOOL-BASED MENTAL HEALTH (SBMH) MODEL AND STAFFING UPDATE  

Mental health and wellness are priorities of the PAUSD Promise. In previous years, the District relied on contracts with various agencies to provide services for K-12 students. The SBMH model provides the opportunity for District-employed mental health staff to provide consistent support and services to students, staff, and families. This aligns with the District’s overall vision for mental health and wellness.  

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MODEL 

Ten mental health and wellness associates (therapists) have been hired to support the District’s 12 elementary schools. Eight of those sites have a therapist five days a week, whereas the four smaller elementary sites share two therapists. The mental health and wellness therapist is part of the Mental Health and Wellness team that includes the School Psychologist and Health Technician.  

MIDDLE SCHOOL MODEL 

Three mental health and wellness associates have been hired to support the three middle schools five days a week. Each site houses its own Wellness Center. District and site-level teams are working together to increase the open hours of the Wellness Centers, while continuing to support the mental health needs of individual students. The Mental Health Associate works closely with the school psychologist, counselors, and health technicians to ensure overall wellness and a positive school climate for students, staff, and families.  

TRAINING 

All mental health and wellness therapists attended an orientation and received clinical training prior to the start of school. The Mental Health and Wellness Supervisor provides ongoing clinical support through weekly group and individual sessions, consultation, and crisis support. All middle school therapists and half of the elementary therapists attended a suicide prevention training. The other half will attend training in September. Ongoing training is a mandatory requirement for the in-house mental health program. The Mental Health and Wellness Supervisor also serves as the School Links Services Coordinator, as part of the District’s partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). The partnership brings in valuable resources related to training, community collaboration, and on-demand crisis support.  

HIGH SCHOOL MODEL 

Each high school has a licensed mental health and wellness coordinator who supports the mental health needs of the school community in conjunction with school psychologists, guidance counselors, wellness outreach workers (WOW), nurses, and administrators. The Wellness Center is open all day and students are welcomed and supported by the Wellness Coordinator and WOW. The District has a contract with Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY) to provide mental health services for the two high schools. CASSY is contracted to provide three therapists for each high school, with at least one licensed therapist at each site. The high schools were not fully staffed at the start of the school year; each high school needed one additional therapist. The District opted to simultaneously seek out candidates in hopes of filling the positions with a District-employed mental health and wellness associate. The Stanford Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship Program is a valued partnership that will continue to support PAUSD students. Due to a substantial cost increase in the contract with Asian Americans for Community Involvement, the District is exploring ways to support the community needs through a new hire or a community-based organization for parent outreach and education.  

UNIVERSAL MENTAL HEALTH SCREENER AND MULTI-TIERED SYSTEM OF SUPPORTS (MTSS) 

The District is collaborating across departments and site-level teams to select a universal mental health screener to assess the social and emotional well-being of students and staff. The hope is that a screener could be part of an MTSS platform that integrates a tiered approach to mental health service delivery for students and provides intervention data that can be monitored for effectiveness. One option being explored is the Branching Minds platform.  

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS 

Partnerships with local and outside agencies will continue to be a resource for PAUSD. Care Solace supports students and families outside of school hours. Project Safety Net is another critical partnership. The District is considering piloting Teen Mental Health First Aid which focuses on training students on how to support and talk with friends when they are struggling emotionally. Kaiser Thriving Schools’ Ready, Set, RISE! is another resource which provides access to e-learning modules that support mental health-related learning opportunities for students and staff. The District is also part of the Leadership Collaborative with Children’s Health Council which brings local community-based organizations and school districts together to meet the mental health needs of students and staff.  

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING 

Several elementary schools piloted Second Step last year. This year, the District will gather staff feedback on vetted Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curricula to determine a social-emotional learning program to implement across school sites. An ad hoc committee will explore the strengths and opportunities of the SEL programming at the high school level.  

NEXT STEPS 

Communication with school sites and ongoing support and training for the mental health and wellness therapists is critical to the success of the in-house mental health model. The District and site-level teams will be in close collaboration regarding the service delivery model, staff training, parent education, and crisis support.  

Selecting and administering a universal mental health screener is a priority fall. The integration of a tiered approach to mental health support within the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework will be worked on collaboratively across departments. Feedback on the SEL curriculum will be gathered and analyzed to determine options for a District-wide approach to SEL for students. Community partnerships and local resources will be accessed to support the mental health needs of students, staff, and families.  

COMMITTEE WORK 

PAUSD uses two types of committees to gain input. Ongoing committees can be found HERE. These standing meetings are posted and are governed by the Ralph M. Brown Act. In general, they are relatively formal and ongoing in nature. Our short-term ad hoc committees are different. They have defined periods of time with specific short-term tasks. Those committees can be found HERE. Comments for any committees can always be sent through email. Routine reports will also appear on our board agenda.  

SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL 

PAUSD partners with the City and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs to coordinate annual K-8 in-school bicycle and pedestrian safety education.  

Active school commutes support social and emotional learning, lead to improved academic performance, reduce traffic congestion around schools, create safer street conditions, cut down on air pollution and put into practice the road safety education students receive in the classroom. 

If you must drive, please share the road safely. Put away your cell phone, moderate your speed, provide bicyclists with three feet of passing distance, and do not drive around school buses that are temporarily stopped along the road to pick up or drop off students. 

Review important rules of the road and plan your walk/bike route using your Walk and Roll Suggested School Route Map. 

More transportation safety information is available in the “Getting To” section of your school website, by checking the Safe Routes to School website, or by contacting saferoutes@cityofpaloalto.org. Please direct traffic enforcement or crossing guard concerns to the Palo Alto Police Department’s non-emergency line at 650-329-2413, or by using the Palo Alto 311 mobile app. 

Let’s all work together to support active school commutes in Palo Alto.