Weekly Message from Acting Superintendent 5/6

Weekly Message from Acting Superintendent 5/6

Dear Monroe School District Community–

Spring has sprung! From drama productions to field day to graduation, spring brings all kinds of exciting things in our schools. But most importantly, all of our students begin to look forward to the future, whether it is moving onto the next grade or graduating from high school and moving one step closer to being an adult.

With all of these celebrations and rites of passage, we know that this time can also increase the stress that our students, staff, and families experience. This is a time that students often explore their independence by trying new things and testing boundaries. Our goal is to provide students with opportunities to explore healthy new things and life skills to make wise decisions. We want to make sure that we are not only providing students the information they need to make good decisions and to stay healthy physically and mentally, but also providing families the information they need to support their students.

Our Director of Prevention Services, Joe Neigel, and his team have put together a list of great resources available in school and out of school. We shared this in a January message and wanted to make sure that you had this information available to you again now. Students are navigating a lot these days and the more we are working together to keep them healthy and safe, the more successful they will be in school and life.

Celebrate People

Jennifer Swan is our Behavioral Health Specialist for the Monroe School District. The purpose of her work is to support students, staff, and families as they navigate difficult experiences. This is incredibly important because we know that mental health struggles can be a barrier to learning and our job as educators is to identify barriers to learning and try to mitigate them. We are so appreciative of Jennifer and the support she provides to our community. To highlight Jennifer and the work she does, I asked her a few questions and she graciously took the time to respond and to provide resources.

1. Describe your role in the Monroe School District.

There are three main focuses of my work: crisis response and intervention, coordination of suicide prevention programs and consultation for students, families and staff. I am a districtwide resource that offers mental health support to students K-12 with my office based at Monroe High School. If staff are working with a youth who may be experiencing a crisis, suicidal ideation or high need mental health struggles, I am called to provide in-school support and brief mental health therapy. In the fall, I work closely with school staff and counselors to teach students about mental health through the SOS Signs of Suicide curriculum for grades 6-12 and how to seek help if they are worried about themselves or a friend. The SOS curriculum teaches students about the difficult topic of suicide, and for those who may be struggling with these thoughts, immediate support and follow-up is offered. I am one piece of the larger puzzle of our amazing counseling and behavioral health team in the Monroe School District.

2. Why is what you do so important? Why do you do this work?

I joined Monroe School District in June 2021 after a career in community mental health, serving as a Licensed Mental Health Therapist and Clinical Supervisor for Child and Family programs. Although a new and scary transition to school-based work, I took the leap to see beyond the walls of an office and meet students in their environment. Beyond academics, we know that youth are bringing a unique story to school every day. As their educators and as participants in Monroe School District, we are called to serve the whole child and the story that they carry. I love working in the behavioral health field because of those stories; the stories we can't erase but can rewrite for the future. I want to make sure that students know that they are important and seen in the world. Whether we are talking, drawing a picture about their feelings or playing a board game, I am continuously impressed by the strength of our youth.

3. What advice do you have for students, staff, and families on navigating the impact of living in a pandemic, being a young adult, dealing with adolescence, etc?

Having a strong support system helps us overcome challenges and maintain a state of wellness. We can't do this alone. As we rebuild during this global pandemic, we are slowly finding our own ways to reclaim this sense of connection whether it is going to the movie theater with a friend, hopping on a plane for the first time in several years or scheduling regular hangouts with relatives over Zoom—they are small steps that make a big difference. It's important for us to take care of ourselves while also finding ways to incorporate that sense of belonging back into our lives. And for those who are still searching, you are not alone. Find those helpers, find those trusted adults and do not hesitate to reach out when you notice someone is struggling.

4. What is something you would like people to know about you?

I am proud of my Asian Pacific Islander upbringing. My mother is Filipino and she was born and raised in Hawaii. I love to learn new recipes and eat delicious meals with the people I love most. I am a mama to a black poodle mix puppy, Pepper, and am welcoming my first human baby in less than one month. I love board games and my guilty pleasure is watching CBS's Survivor and The Amazing Race!

Want to learn ways to support a youth in crisis?

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.

For certification in Youth Mental Health First Aid, please join me during one of the following trainings this month offered through Monroe School District:

5/16/2022 8:00 AM PST Blended Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

5/17/2022 11:00 AM PST Blended Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

5/18/2022 8:00 AM Blended Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

For more information, please email me at swanj@monroe.wednet.edu or call (360) 913-3915.

Positive Reinforcement
There are so many interactions that students have throughout their waking hours and it is important that staff and families understand the importance of positive communication.

Positive Reinforcement at a ratio of five positive interactions to one negative interaction has a significant impact on student behavior. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on not only how you provide feedback, but how often you share with your student(s) the positive things about them and what they are doing.

Superintendent's Student Advisory Council
A few years ago the Monroe Inclusionary Council (MIC), made up of Monroe School District high school students came to us with concerns they had. They were worried about the culture and climate in their schools and wanted us to know that it was impacting their education and their lives. I had a chance to talk with some former students involved in MIC earlier this year and a recommendation they had was to start a Superintendent's Student Advisory Council. They believed that giving students the opportunity to learn about district initiatives and have input would support an improved culture and climate.

Thanks to their advocacy, we now have a Superintendent's Student Advisory Council and our first meeting was this past Monday! The purpose of this group, made up of 8th grade through 12th grade students from all five of our secondary schools, will be to outline the work and structure of this group for years to come. A huge thank you to Blake Baird and Shannon Tarrach for their passion for this project and bringing an idea to life. I also want to thank the former members of the Monroe Inclusionary Council for their inspiration and commitment to their peers. And of course, thank you to all the students who wanted to be a part of this group and are spending their time to make this a better place for everyone.

Upcoming Events

The Addams Family Musical at Monroe High School Opens TONIGHT - This is an incredible performance you don't want to miss! Tickets can be purchased at the door or online: https://bit.ly/3ypmYIy Showtimes are as follows:

  • Friday, May 6 at 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, May 7 at 1:00 and 7:00 pm
  • Friday, May 13 at 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, May 14 at 1:00 and 7:00 pm

Don't Miss the Annual Monroe High School FFA Plant Sale @ the MHS Greenhouse - The majority of plants for sale this year are ornamental annuals in either hanging baskets or patio planters - but options for individual fillers, thrillers and spillers are also available! (Note: There will be no veggies starts or herbs this year). All items are on a first come first served basis. Quantities may be limited. Check or exact cash only.

  • Saturday, May 7th, 9:00-12:00
  • May 9-13th, 2:30-4:00
  • Saturday, May 14th, 2:30-6:00

It is so important that we are working together and supporting one another as we move through some difficult times. Please take a moment to appreciate one another. This coming Sunday is Mother's Day and I want to wish the mothers and mothers at heart a happy and peaceful weekend.


Kim Whitworth
Acting Superintendent