Upper Valley School Superintendents’ Summit Matches Students’ and Families Needs with Area Providers
On June 5, 2017, the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley and Dr. Joanne Roberts, Superintendent of the Lebanon School District, hosted a forum that brought together school personnel with health and human services providers. “Our schools in the Upper Valley provide great learning opportunities for our students. Our administrators and staff are talented, passionate and caring. One of the challenges we currently face is meeting students’ and families’ needs who struggle with poverty, housing insecurity, and are impacted by mental health issues and addiction. We need to mobilize all available resources to help support and serve our children and families,” said Dr. Roberts, to a crowd of over fifty people.
The idea for the Summit emerged from conversations between Dr. Roberts, and Alice Ely, Executive Director of the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley. Dr. Roberts described the challenges children and families are encountering. Ms. Ely offered to find the providers who could help address those issues. “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,” says Ms. Ely.
A Service to Schools
At the Summit, 20 area providers shared brief descriptions of their services with over 25 school representatives from seven school districts. We used a round robin format to give each provider time to speak. Each round included time for questions and discussion. During a luncheon that followed, providers and school personnel were able to discuss future collaboration more informally. According to Jacqui Guillette, Superintendent of the Grantham School District, “This summit enabled staff from the Grantham School District to learn about providers and services available to support and help the Grantham students, families, and community. We feel better prepared to offer referrals or networking to these providers and services. This event was well worth the time we invested.”
Many of the providers at the Summit described the process as a very efficient way to let schools know how they can help. The Summit also served to many as a call for more collective action. As put by Heidi Postupack, Executive Director of Second Growth, “During the Summit, it became evident to us all that schools need support from every corner of the community including parent organizations, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations.”
Participants from Across the Region
The schools and districts whose staff attended the summit included: Grantham School District, Hartford Area Career and Technical Center, Hartford School District, Lebanon School District, Ledyard Charter School, Lyme School District, and the Mascoma Valley Regional School District.
Representatives from the following organizations attended to share information about their services and discuss partnership opportunities: Center for School Success, Child and Family Services, Clara Martin Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Pediatrics, Deer Creek PA, Good Beginnings of the Upper Valley, HALO Educational Services, HCRS, Lebanon Human Services, NAMI New Hampshire, Ottauquechee Health Foundation, Second Growth, TLC Family Resource Center, Twin Pines Housing Trust, Upper Valley Haven (Family Services and Children’s Support Programs), Vet Center, The Welcoming All Nationalities Network of the Upper Valley, West Central Behavioral Health, and WISE.
Ms. Ely hopes to use this summit format for future gatherings, between schools and providers and, potentially between other groups who would benefit from learning about each other. For the next School Superintendents Summit, planned for the spring of 2018, the Public Health Council expects to invite more school districts within our region. She also welcomes ideas from the community about how such a format might be used to promote collaboration for better health.