GUEST COLUMN: School works hard to combat social issues

Over the past two months, our Tonasket school and community have been impacted by several student issues ranging from the death of an elementary student to drug use, depression and self-harm. Unfortunately, these are issues that impact our community and schools too often.

Our entire school staff and especially our counseling and administration teams consistently work hard on these issues; both the immediate problems and the longer-term proactive activities to help our students and community with these difficult issues.

The following are examples of some of the measures our school district has taken in the areas of school safety, healthy choices, and student mental health:

• Full-time mental health counselor from OBHC is on site four days a week.

• A full-time counselor in each school. Our school levy funds some of these positions.

• Counseling help from OBHC and/or other districts brought in for specific incidents.

• White Hatter student presentations last month and parent presentation about the dangers of social networking.

• Ron James, Best Choices Assembly. He presented last year and is coming again on Nov. 13 to present to the middle school and high school.

He is also playing his movie about his life for the community in the THS commons.

• Emphasis on social/emotional health in all staff training in August.

• Teaching the Second Step curriculum and Why Try curriculums.

• Hours and hours of individual student counseling/coaching by staff throughout the organization.

• Revamping our Child Study Team process to identify strengths, barriers, and motivators to create student behavior plans to promote student success.

• Pursuing grants with partners like North Valley Hospital for programs targeted at nationwide opioid epidemic.

• Increased security with cameras in buildings and buses.

• Staff training in Student Threat Assessment.

• SafeSchools Alert implementation. This is an anonymous tip reporting service accessible from our district web page.

• Rewriting our emergency operations plan (EOP).

• Upcoming admin and counselor small group discussions with students regarding the rise in self-harm and drug use, and field questions from students to provide support and problem-solving options.

• Sending weekly updates to staff, parents and community about the goings on in our district through email, website and Facebook. This is called the Tonasket School District Weekly Update and we implemented this external communication tool in the 2018-19 school year.

As you can see, there are many ways that our school works to combat some of the social issues that impact our community and students. It is an integral part of our work, and we are consistently striving to improve our ability to help our students meet all of the challenges that impede their ability to learn and grow in to healthy, productive citizens.

Steve McCullough is the superintendent of Tonasket School District. He can be reached at 509-486-2126 or

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