On October 4, 2018, the Lebanon School District Office gym was humming with the chatter of new connections, putting faces to names, and busy professionals all focused on addressing schools’ greatest concerns for children and their families. The Public Health Council of the Upper Valley and Dr. Joanne Roberts, Superintendent of the Lebanon School District, hosted the second forum bringing together school personnel and local agencies. The purpose of the event was to: 1) Increase regional understanding of what challenges schools face in providing the best learning opportunities possible; 2) Increase understanding of what resources are available to help schools serve the needs of their students and families; and 3) Provide a forum for building relationships between schools and providers that can lead to new (or deeper) formal and informal working relationships.
Prior to the event, registrants were asked to share what they hoped to get out of the summit. Posters at the front of the room displayed the main themes of what people were hoping to learn.
“To acquire knowledge of how these organizations and other schools best support students and families.”
“I want to better serve the community I work with.”
“Improve community contacts to help ensure wrap around services for our most vulnerable students.”
To open the event with a call to action, Alice Ely, Executive Director of the Public Health Council, asked everyone to use the day to share their story, listen to what others have to offer, and find at least three things they can do as a result of the discussions.
What are Schools’ Greatest Concerns?
To determine schools’ greatest concerns for children and their families, the Public Health Council conducted a survey of Upper Valley schools in June and July to identify their main topics of concern. Alice Ely and Dr. Roberts then worked with a small planning committee to develop facilitated workshops for the four most common concerns: mental health, substance use disorders, meeting basic needs, relationships with child protective services. Attendees were able to attend two different workshops during the event. [Learning Objectives: Click to learn more about the workshops provided at the Summit.]
After workshops, attendees shared a delicious lunch and talked over what they had learned in their school groups and visited the resource fair. Tables along the back wall were covered with pamphlets, pens, contact and informative materials, and posters from the seventeen Upper Valley organizations present.
Closing with Stress Reduction
The whirlwind conversations, networking and discussions came to a close with a stress management activity from Kate Gamble of Open Door. The quiet meditation brought attention to the importance of stress management and introduced a strategy for the school personnel and social agency providers in the room. Summit attendees left with a list of the names, organizations and contact information for everyone in attendance.
Attendees from Many Schools and Organizations
The thirteen schools or districts whose staff attended the summit included: Lebanon School District, Rivendell Interstate School District, Windsor Schools, Central Vermont Supervisory Union, Mascoma Valley Regional School District, Marion Cross School, Hartford Area Career and Technology Center, Ledyard Charter School, Grantham School District, SAU 23 North Haverhill, Tunbridge Central School, and Plainfield School District.
Representatives from the following organizations attended to share information about their services, discuss partnership opportunities, and facilitate workshop discussions in their areas of focus: Good Beginnings of the Upper Valley, Child and Family Services, The Family Place, LISTEN Community Services, Open Door, Health Care & Rehabilitation Services of Vermont, Dartmouth Hitchcock Pediatrics, WISE, ALL Together, HALO Educational Systems, Second Growth, Second Wind Foundation, Twin Pines, Upper Valley Haven, HealthHUB, VT Department of Health, VT Economic Services Division, and the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley.
This is Only the Beginning of the Conversation
The idea for the Summit came about in 2017 from conversations between Dr. Roberts and Alice Ely about the need for improved connections between school personnel and local resources to meet schools’ greatest concerns for children and families in the Upper Valley. Ms. Ely recognized an opportunity for the Public Health Council to help connect the two. She said, “We have so many great resources available here in the Upper Valley. However, sometimes the challenge for busy professionals is making connections to others who can help them better serve their constituents. That is one of the key roles the Public Health Council plays. I was thrilled to partner with Dr. Roberts to make this event happen.”
The overwhelmingly positive feedback to the event noted the “professionalism and caring nature of all who attended.” The event was a great success in making connections and networking. However, there was much talk about needing to continue the conversation about meeting schools’ greatest concerns. Ms. Ely sees the role of the Public Health Council to help facilitate these conversations and looks forward to seeing what happens.