Last week I had the unique opportunity to meet with former Newtown Connecticut Superintendent, Dr. Joe Erardi. Newtown is the school district where the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred in 2012. Newtown is an upper middle class community much like Worthington that has experienced unspeakable tragedy. Their lessons are important for all of us to listen to. Joe was in Columbus and agreed to meet to share those lessons around school safety that were learned in Newtown.
In our meeting, Joe provided us with multiple concrete steps that based upon his experience in Newtown would better secure our buildings, train our staff and provide enhanced safety. You’ll see many of those steps in practice in Worthington as we communicate back to school information in a few weeks. In addition, Joe stressed the need to make sure that no student is isolated and for the community to work together to better serve the mental health and wellness needs of each of our children.
In Worthington Schools we’re striving to do exactly that and I’m really proud of the strides we have made just since this time last year. This fall we will be implementing the Sandy Hook Promise “Starts with Hello” program in each elementary school and continuing the “Say Something” program in each secondary school.
As we begin school in August we will have seven mental health specialists with a LISW license employed in Worthington working with our students. Since last October, our Board of Education has supported adding five new mental health specialists to the small team we had on staff at this time last year.
In addition, Worthington Schools continues to partner with North Community Counseling Services. North Community employs licensed clinicians to work with our students. As part of their services in Franklin County, they provide school services to our students as well as Columbus City Schools. Their clinicians collaborate with school counselors, parents, teachers and administrators to provide age-appropriate mental health services to help children succeed. Their services include individual counseling, case management, crisis intervention, preventative services, advocacy, and referrals to needed resources, linkages, and support. For Worthington, we contract with 7 licensed clinicians working in all of our K-12 schools for the equivalent services of 5 full-time clinicians (some of the clinicians work part-time).
Thus, in addition to the 22 licensed school counselors in our district and 12 licensed school psychologists, we have this team of 12 professionals solely focused on supporting our students mental health and wellness.
Finally, Worthington employs Lori Povisil as our Safe and Drug Free Schools Coordinator. In this unique role, Lori works with One Leg at a Time anti-bullying programs at all levels, she runs Insight classes for students and families who have violated our ATOD policy and she runs prevention trainings at the MS/HS level.
In Worthington we care deeply about our students and we’re working diligently to provide the support necessary so all of our students see success both in and out of the classroom. This is work that will never be complete but I believe we’ve made big strides this year in the right direction.
-Trent Bowers, Superintendent