by Terry Rogers
In an effort to increase support for students at the school level, Milford School District has hired several new staff members to address student mental health. The new staff members include additional school counselors at Ross, Milford Central Academy and Milford High School. In addition, a second Student and Family Interventionist has been added at Banneker, Milford High School and Milford Central Academy.
Each Milford school now has a dedicated school psychologist and the state has supported Morris Early Childhood Center with a Family Crisis Therapist. “The new staff members bring years of experience working with government agencies to support families,” said Jason Peel, Director of Human Resources & School Climate. “They bring this expertise to help our schools bridge the gap in ensuring that students and families can access supports from the community and various government agencies. We have been fortunate to increase our capacity to service our students’ mental health needs through valuable partnerships with community agencies, including People’s Place, Bayhealth and Delaware Guidance.” Bayhealth sponsors the Milford High School Wellness Center.
Parents who believe their child could benefit from additional mental health services should reach out to a school counselor, Laura Manges, Director of Student Services, explained. Manges stated that the school counselors do an excellent job of matching needs with services for all students. In addition, special education coordinators, psychologists, school nurses and student/family interventionists are also always available to students and their families when additional support is needed. The district offers counseling, behavior supports, collaborative family interventions, referrals and risk assessments.
“Parents should look for general lack of energy and interest in previously enjoyed activities, decline in school performance and eating disturbances or irritability as signs their child may be struggling mentally,” Manges said. “They may also regress in behaviors, such as thumb sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark or school avoidance. They could withdraw from family and/or peer relationships as well. These may be signs your child is suffering from anxiety and depression. Talking with your child about feelings and keeping the door open to communication while providing structure and a consistent routine will assist in providing a safe place for your child to work through any discomfort as they learn to seek assistance and manage behavioral needs.”
Bridget Amory, Director of Student Learning, says that Milford School District is committed to educating the whole child, including working collaboratively with community stakeholders to meet the needs of our students academically as well as ensuring they are able to learn in a nurturing environment that is healthy and safe.
“We work to ensure our policies and practices support this effort,” Amory said. “Additionally, we challenge our staff to build relationships with our students that allow for there to be trust and respect for one another which additionally supports students in the learning process. An example of this would include our efforts with supporting a growth mindset across our schools. This approach has helped many of our students, with and without mental health needs, become reflective and responsible for their learning. Fostering a growth mindset includes approaching learning with an attitude of learning from ones mistakes and providing students with praise for their efforts over their intelligence.”
Dr. Dickerson indicated that the district is also committed to increasing mental health supports for students in schools and is pleased that the district can offer more mental health supports than ever as the new school year begins.
“These supports include increased dedicated personnel on-site through additional school employees and contracted services with external agencies from our community,” Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent of Milford School District, said. “We have prioritized our students’ mental health needs within our staffing and have benefitted from increased state funding availability for supporting our students with mental health needs. These supports will allow us to continue meeting and best servicing the needs of our students. Overall, we believe this is going to have tremendous impact academically, socio-emotionally and behaviorally for our students.”
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