Warwick school board reviews findings of mental health screening of students | Community News

When: Warwick school board committee of the whole and reorganization meeting, Dec. 6.

What happened: A presentation on mental health support in the school district outlined the services available to students and provided some alarming data.

Details: They reported that in the fall of 2022, a Teen Hope screening of students indicated that 20% of 10th graders were at risk for mental health and that 6% had reported self-harm or suicidal thoughts in the past two weeks. Of the seventh graders who were screened, 24% were at risk, with 10% reporting self-harm or suicidal thoughts in the past two weeks. The presentation was made by Colleen Heckman, director of student services; Steve Szobocsan, director of secondary curriculum, instruction, and assessment; Kristy Szobocsan, Warwick High School principal; Earl Hazel, athletic director; and Megan Demianovich, Warwick High School psychologist.

Mental health services: As a result of the data, a request was made to expand the mental health services at the district, by adding an additional school psychologist at the high school. With the additional school psychologist, there would be a better crisis response, support of triage of risk and threat assessments, special education evaluations, and support for staff. It was reported that there are 1,224 students at Warwick High School, with school psychologist Nina Moore serving middle school grades seven, eight and nine, while Demianovich serves grades 10-12. There are four school counselors. Other supports include two school social workers and home school visitors, student attendance intervention programming, school based counseling through Wellspan, Teen Hope Mental Health Screening, Student Assistance Program, partnership with the Brubaker Foundation, and school counseling curriculum.

Quotable: “As important as it is that we teach the solution to a trig problem, I think it is just as important to teach them how to deal with stress and how to recognize the stress and give them tools and support,” board President Todd Rucci said. “I don’t think we can make this important enough. Frankly, if we don’t get this right, all the other stuff doesn’t matter, if our students don’t feel supported.”

Response: Board members indicated that they would support the additional high school psychologist. Board member Nelson Peters agreed, saying, “This has preventative value. We become a better community.” It is expected that the request for an additional school psychologist will will be on the upcoming agenda.

Public comments: Warwick High School language arts teacher Heather Lefever said that she is retiring after 30 years of teaching at her alma mater. She cited the bullying and harassment that teachers face as one of the main reasons she decided to retire, along with the “hurtful accusations of debauching and deflowering our students, and the complete lack of trust in us by seemingly so many in this community.” Lefever said, “I don’t teach students what to think; I teach them how to think about literature. As a public school teacher, I have had to learn how to make my classroom a welcoming place for all my students.” Parent and veteran Derrick Hill said that he interacts with a lot of kids in the community, and expressed concern about the books being targeted for banning and censorship in America. “Censorship is wrong,” Hill said. “It takes away the freedom for somebody to tell their truth, so other people can see through their eyes and walk a mile in their shoes.”

Appointments: At the reorganizational meeting, the board reappointed Rucci as president and C. Edward Browne as vice president of the board. The student representative is Warwick High School senior Liam Zee.

Committee assignments: Approved as committee chairpersons were James Koelsch, Building and Property Committee; Leslie Penkunas, Education Committee; Peters, Finance and Legal Committee; Browne, Student Activities Committee; and Rucci, Personnel Committee.

Also: Emily Zimmerman was appointed Lancaster County Career and Technology Center representative. Koelsch is the representative for the Joint Municipality Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Peters will serve as the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 representative and the legislative representative, Koelsch as Lititz recCenter representative, Rucci as labor and management representative. District CFO Nate Wetsch is Lancaster County Tax Collection Bureau representative and was also appointed as district investment officer

Other matters: The board appointed Saxton & Stump LLC, of Lancaster, as district solicitor. Saxton & Stump is merging with the current solicitor Kegel Kelin Litts & Lord LLP, of Lancaster, so the reappointment was not a change. Peters requested that due to the merger, the board perform a performance evaluation of Saxton & Stump LLC in the near future to ensure that they are meeting the school’s needs. Nine members of the board voted in favor of appointing Saxton & Stump as solicitor, with Peters voting nay.

Solicitor suggestion: There was a suggestion from local resident Justin Cook to appoint William Zee of Appel, Yost & Zee LLP of Lancaster as solicitor, in order to have just one law firm for the school district. Appel, Yost & Zee LLP is currently solicitor for special education services. Since the school district is in the process on some legal issues at this time, the board prefers to not switch solicitors until the issues are resolved. The vote to appoint Zee as solicitor for special education services only was unanimously approved.

Future schedule: The board approved the dates and schedule for committee meetings in 2023, as well as adopting the Revised Robert’s Rules of Order for the school board and committee meetings.

Retirements: The board accepted the retirement of Tamera Olivieri as a health and physical education teacher at the high school and as a physical education teacher at John Beck Elementary School; Jeffrey Martin as a social studies teacher at Warwick Middle School; and Lisa Hardy as a student support assistant at Kissel Hill Elementary School.

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