Oakdale Joint Unified School District maintains a proactive approach on the education and expansion of student growth. While academics, career focus and extracurricular activity remain at the forefront of the district goals, so too does the priority of a ‘Safe and Healthy’ learning environment for all students.
Board members as well as district administrators and staff were reminded of this by Armida Colon, Director of State and Federal Programs on Monday evening, April 8 during the monthly board meeting. Colon addressed the board with an updated report and findings on the “Power of One” program.
“The Power of One, is actually our prevention program which was established when prevention initiatives were consolidated with key focuses, action plans and our dedicated team,” Colon said to the board. “An action team to support the initiative’s overall goal.”
The action team is a committee made up of administrators, teachers and community members. Their goal is to advise on initiatives that the district should look into, as well as monitor the implementation of the Power of One action plan.
“It’s always important to remember that no community is without problems that need to be identified and addressed,” the director said. “Often times we feel like we’re functioning in isolation. We feel like we’re seeing our number skyrocket and some may remain stagnant. But when we look around it’s a societal issue. And remember we all have issues, but what matters is do you have a plan to address those issues and I can confidently say we do.”
According to Colon the use of local data relies on staff and community members’ input which is critical for the assessment process. Results of the California Healthy Kids Survey are also taken into consideration.
“A lot of these initiatives aren’t funded with district funds,” Colon said of individual site initiatives to support the student body. “Actually the majority are coming from site level funds. That means the priority was made by site administrators, to set aside funds in their budget to support these initiatives.”
One particular example of the proactive approach being made by district sites, Colon shared, is being demonstrated at Oakdale High School through “at-risk monthly meetings.”
In that effort, OHS has developed a comprehensive, very tight, progressive program “at-risk monthly meetings,” working with students who are needing support. Administrators, as well as counseling staff review the cases, as well as student need. Then they link the student to resources either on or off campus.
“What we did is we partnered up with the American Association of Suicide Prevention and they sent presenters at the beginning of the year to talk to the junior high and high school teachers on this topic,” Colon shared during the meeting. She noted that while it may have been the least favorite way for a staff to start the year, the impact is invaluable. “This is an incredibly sensitive topic. We got a lot of positive feedback from staff.”
Board member Diane Gilbert inquired about specifics of the at risk monthly meeting, questioning how the students are identified and who makes the assessments.
“The key thing is to be able to provide the student with resources and the help that they need,” Colon said. “It may also be including the parents to some degree or another. So the outcome of those meetings really is going to vary based on the particular need of that student.”
Colon assured Gilbert the concern or identification of particular students may come from a teacher, administrator or counselor. The concern may stem from a temporary circumstance or something more critical. OHS has utilized the professional expertise of staffer Amanda Stepp to help with students in critical need.
Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone asked Assistant Superintendent Larry Mendonca to share a bit of information on Stepp with the board and audience.
“We have a staff member who is a licensed clinical social worker, who’s a licensed mental health clinician on campus all day,” Mendonca said of Stepp, adding that while she works with a certain class/class load on campus she has made herself available to work with students going through crisis.
“We do tap her quite a bit,” Mendonca said of the committee, “but also she’s responded to us at different sites to go to an analysis of a student who’s going through crisis. It’s very nice to have a licensed mental health clinician on campus who can serve that particular population need but also respond to any general need that we have.”
In addition to the proactive student in crisis approach being taken, Colon also noted a need for additional student education in the areas of vaping and marijuana products.
“This idea that they’re not harmful or they’re less harmful perhaps feeds the ongoing trend of increased use in these areas,” she said of the two products which have increased in use and popularity over the past three years.