The Hollister School District writes that school counselors, registered social workers, and registered mental health therapists are part of a team focused on student well-being.
This is the first year with a comprehensive team addressing a range of socio-emotional issues at the Hollister School District.
This is particularly important in the context of the pandemic with the return of students to campuses in the fall of 2021-2022, and the district has prioritized the socio-emotional team as an integral part of the learning environment. .
In the past, there were usually only two trustees in the district, one at Rancho San Justo Middle School and one at Maze Middle School. Now there are school counselors, registered social workers and registered mental health therapists assigned to sites in the district, noted Daniel Romero, a school counselor assigned to Calaveras / AAA.
For example, Maze and Rancho San Justo colleges each have two counselors on site. Rancho also has a mental health therapist and a school social worker – just like Cerra Vista, Sunnyslope, Rancho Santana, HDLA, and Ladd Lane. All are full time employees.
“It’s a more proactive approach – a more positive, proactive approach,” said Romero, who grew up opposite the Calaveras school and attended local schools.
Romero started out as a school counselor, but became deputy principal and then coordinator of special education. He decided that being a school counselor was “the thing I love the most.”
“I wanted to give back to our community,” he said. “My passion has always been to work with students and families.
He pointed out a wide range of student issues to be addressed. Often, the family life of students is at the root of these problems.
“How can a student learn when they are going through all of these other things? ” he said.
The evolution of the District SE team has involved the use of a variety of successful programs such as Capturing Kids Hearts, which focuses on relationship building; Positive behavioral interventions and support; and the tiered support system, which encompasses a set of resources.
For example, when cases arise, school counselors deal with the first level of problems. If further therapeutic interventions are required, registered social workers and registered mental health therapists intervene. Registered social workers and therapists are the team members who manage more in-depth therapy, and the need for such services has grown during the pandemic, Romero noted.
Licensed social workers such as Eliana Delgadillo, who is based in Ladd Lane but can work at different locations, have helped students understand the new normal after returning to campus full-time.
“We are seeing a lot of adjustments in the school setting,” said Delgadillo, also a licensed social worker. She pointed out how the students who were in kindergarten at the start of the on-site shelter ended up spending the first grade apprenticeship for most of the year. Now they’re in second year and it’s “almost like a whole new environment,” she said.
Delgadillo said members of the SE team are helping students feel less anxiety and educating them about wearing masks and being cautious about COVID-19. She noted that parents “face a lot of things at home” which can lead to an increased need for support for students.
“They can decompress and express what they are feeling,” she said.
It’s important for the SE team to make sure parents are aware of the services, Delgadillo said.
“For parents, it shows them that we are trying to support all aspects of their children’s development and education,” she said.
Like Delgadillo, Adina Austin has a diverse background that includes over a decade of working in the non-profit sector. Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist who worked for six years in the San Benito County Office of Education, as the coordinator of the SELPA-ERMHS (Education-Related Mental Health Services) program. Austin’s role was to ensure that special education students received their mental health support and services. With the districts increasingly managing the therapy on site, she moved to the Hollister School District to be part of the development to provide mental health support to all students in the district.
She said therapists can help with a wide range of issues, such as major depression, anxiety, or ADHD. She said that while social workers are well balanced, licensed therapists specifically oversee mental health therapy.
She said the SE team developed the program “from scratch” with a referral form and focused process. She pointed out that each site has its own socio-emotional expert. These experts can meet with a student for 10 to 12 counseling sessions. If there is no progress needed, the matter is referred to licensed therapists like Austin. The focus is no longer on punishment for students with mental health issues, she said.
“My goal is to educate adults, work with students, and provide a safe space for students to tell their story,” said Austin, who oversees the Cerra Vista School and will assist Calaveras / AAA campuses when licensed therapist will be required.
She continued, “All of these students have not only experienced a pandemic, but they also come from a unique place. Everyone has a different story “.
As for the pandemic, she said there was “a lot of anxiety” on campuses. She said that while some students actually did “really well” at home, in other situations parents didn’t have time to help or didn’t know how to do it.
“I just want to be able to provide knowledge and encourage everyone to have empathy and understanding, especially adults, about what our students have gone through.”