District wellness committees are an ideal leadership structure to pursue the promotion of health and wellness in all aspects of the school environment. This was especially true this past year!
In my district — Missouri’s Farmington R7 School District (FSD) — our wellness committee embraced the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model as a way to address wellness systematically. By utilizing the WSCC structure, our wellness committee members were able to provide strength, stability, and a sense of reliability in a time of great uncertainty.
The Advantage of Using the WSCC Framework
WSCC components enabled the FSD wellness committee members to take a deep dive into specified areas and guide our structured decision-making for the school year. We found that one key to effective implementation of the WSCC framework was the intentional selection of committee members who are adept in one or more of the framework’s 10 school health components.
These members are internal staff, parents, students as well as external community leaders and agencies. We find the strength of an eclectic team keeps us grounded in honest dialogue, causes us to become uncomfortable with current realities and pushes us to change when necessary.
In our experience, each member provided balance in system analysis. The members were able to note siloed systems and thus move us forward together. Our district began to work smarter not harder. Relying on the unique expertise of our wellness committee members, we aligned the reopening of our school and consistently addressed ever-changing realities of our students, staff, parents and community.
Our degree of success with WSCC ensures that we will not only continue to use this system for pandemic crisis operations but also as we focus on new challenges that will arise in the 2021-2022 school year.
The use of WSCC components to evaluate system needs and align wellness goals provided FSD with direction. Consistent review, coupled with providing a risk-free, fail-forward environment in which to practice has resulted in student-focused outcomes and wellness gains for all.
For those not familiar with the CDC’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model, it is a structure which makes it possible to visualize wraparound continuums for students. WSCC gives districts a workable structure to provide a variety of consistent supports which exist in both our schools and communities.
The model consists of 10 outer components:
|Physical Education & Physical Activity||Nutrition Environment & Services||Health Education||Social & Emotional Climate||Physical Environment|
|Health Service||Counseling, Psychological & Social Services||Employee Wellness||Community Involvement||Family Engagement|
The interior portion of the wraparound model focuses on five tenants which outline important characteristics for the child:
Each of these outer and inner components provide a holistic structure for school leaders, staff, parents, and community to function, evaluate current realities, and make systemic changes.
The center of the model is very intentional. It is the child.
Defining the Endgame and Assessing Current Reality
Once our community and staff identified our critical needs during the pandemic crisis, the FSD team began taking steps to tackle those needs. By showing vulnerability, talking openly and honestly, and using the four steps below, we established our “why”:
- Defining the Endgame (Vision);
- Assessing Current Reality;
- Teaming; and
- Strategic Action Steps.
During the process, we embraced the quotes, “You don’t know what you don’t know” and “The goal posts always move,” and continued to acknowledge a favorite term, “kitchen table talk.”
To define our end game in Step 1, we chose both short- and long-term goals to align with our needs assessment results and community discussion feedback.
For Step 2, we continually analyzed our current reality with data suggested by WSCC. We used the School Health Index and questions circulated by ASCD Whole Child Network in The Learning Compact Renewed.
Teaming and Strategic Action Steps
Teaming and defining action steps (Steps 3 and 4) proved a bit of a challenge. As school leaders in health and wellness, we kept seeing the silos of our current practice and wondered why we are always “fighting the good fight” alone.
So often in education we continue isolating ourselves and inevitably grow weary and disheartened. The structure of WSCC enabled our district to begin to see single efforts of
well-meaning staff mesh into one unit moving in the same direction toward a common goal: FSD student and staff mental health and wellness in social, emotional, and physical realms.
What would appear to be an easy task — merging together staff and educational departments for the common good of our students — is not always easy in the education world.
Establishing Our ‘Why’
We spent a lot of time and energy refining our “why.” We knew we would have to address the fact that formerly, district culture supported individual silos — and we found that this pattern is difficult to break.
Therefore, we focused on establishing the foundational needs and the importance of each of the 10 WSCC components. Through the process we also did the following:
- Assigned professionals to each one of the components, thereby bringing human attachment to the structure as we analyzed.
- Shared our strengths, defined our roles, and created a district health and human services team.
- Spent significant time together, learned about one another as human beings, and began to create a new culture and climate where we honored team members as individuals — while simultaneously uplifting the team itself.
- Learned that open communication and vulnerability would help us attain the goal of supporting “the whole child.”
It is significant to add that we held each other accountable, and accountability was — and is — a huge factor in breaking down old ways of thinking and embracing new and better methods.
While our community and district are currently experiencing many health and wellness issues, we were able to use the detailed WSCC model and supportive documents to begin a deliberate focus on two areas which were internally and externally defined as greatest need: mental health services and substance abuse prevention and support.
As a district we will support our community in these main areas, and we remain fully committed to supporting our students by way of the WSCC model. We will continue to lean on this structure through future system changes and in times of crisis.
It is our way. It is our why. It is our responsibility to future generations.
- SHAPE America Position Statement: Using the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model to Ensure Student Health and Success
- CDC’s School Health Index
- ASCD’s The Learning Compact Renewed: Whole Child for the Whole World
- Comprehensive Integrated Three Tiered Model of Intervention
- Book Study and Coursework Focus Using the Book What Happened To You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing
Dr. Ashley Krause is associate superintendent for the Farmington R7 School District in Farmington, MO. She is actively involved in many state organizations and has made presentations in various state and national conferences such as MOCASE, where she currently serves as president. You can reach her by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @drkrauseashley.