Education / Schools

Hollister School District boasts two new district-wide programs

Board discusses social-emotional support services and a campaign to improve student attendance.
The HSD Social Emotional Staff and school placements. Photo courtesy of HSD Social Media.
The HSD Social Emotional Staff and school placements. Photo courtesy of HSD Social Media.

The Hollister School District implemented two new programs this year, aimed at addressing the social-emotional needs of students and attendance. 

At the Sept. 28 Board of Trustees meeting, Assistant Superintendent Kip Ward said these programs are already having a positive impact on the social-emotional needs of students, as well as improvement in attendance with students. 

The Social-Emotional Committee reported that 1,048 students—who were not formally referred by parents or teachers—have received support since the start of the 2021-22 school year. 

According to the California Department of Education, in the 2019-20 school year, the latest available data, HSD had a 3.5% suspension rate compared to 2.6% statewide. It also states that of the students that were suspended in that school year, 38.5% had multiple suspensions compared to 27.6% statewide.

School counselor Daniel Romero said the committee, which consists of himself, school social worker Eliana Delgadillo and school mental health therapist Adina Austin, began collaborating over the summer to develop procedures for the Social-Emotional Team staff. 

“These three folks work with me and they regularly check in with the Social-Emotional Teams [to see] if there are any questions or concerns,” Ward said.

The 13-member team staff, consisting of school counselors, mental health professionals and social workers, were introduced via Powerpoint, showing that every HSD school has at least one counselor, therapist or social worker at its site. 

Romero explained the SE Committee meets weekly to discuss and develop processes, procedures and data collection. The site teams meet bi-weekly to discuss updates, procedures and case consults. 

Austin said the committee is “figuring out ways to provide support for our students using positive reinforcements” and are working with the SE staff, school sites and administration to support every student with social and emotional needs. 

She added the SE school counselors and social workers can provide initial steps of social and emotional intervention, while the SE mental health workers can provide basic intervention needs for students.

“If you have a student who is struggling—maybe dealing with some trauma—and they’re really needing some long-term therapy, a licensed therapist is able to provide that therapeutic support,” Austin said. “We are trained with a therapeutic modality.”

Austin added that all SE team members have been trained to work with students suffering from trauma who have, for example, been in/are in foster care or have witnessed traumatic events. 

Delgadillo said the team collects data to assess the effectiveness of the program and to track the process of the students’ health. She said SE experts are responsible for tracking the dates of referral submissions, student information, demographics, parent contact for home support, student sessions, consultation provided to staff, and dates of when referrals were opened and closed. 

Sessions with students who have not been referred, but who drop in to meet with these experts, are also recorded. Though some sites may not have a licensed therapist assigned to them, Delgadillo said therapists will be assigned to help those students who need it, “so all students have access to all services.” 

According to an internal survey presented at the meeting, all 10 HSD school principals indicated that school staff is aware of SE support services, that the services are easily accessible, that it’s had a positive effect on students and that they’ve witnessed one-on-one sessions with students.

When the HSD Board of Trustees voiced a need to involve parents, Romero said parents of students receiving social and emotional services are given strategies to help their children at home. He added it would be beneficial for the community to host a meeting available to all parents.

Austin said the district can look into creating and posting a training video.

“The beauty of our program is that now we’re focusing on all of our students,” Austin said. “So posting something like that online? We can do that.”

In addition to providing social-emotional services to students, the district has also created a campaign to incentivize student attendance, called Attendance Rebound. 

To encourage every HSD student to maintain good attendance, Ward said there will be monthly drawings to win a green basketball. Students who have had perfect attendance for that month, who have made improvements in their attendance record, and classrooms that have the best attendance averages for the month, will earn green tickets to enter the monthly drawing. In lieu of classroom drawings, Rancho San Justo and Marguerite Maze will pick two individual tickets for basketballs.

According to the latest available data by the California Department of Education, HSD students had 9.1 average days absent for the 2018-19 school year, compared to the 9.6 statewide.

Board Clerk Carla Torres-Deluna asked if students who have been required to be quarantined due to COVID would be impacted by this campaign. Ward assured they would still qualify “because they’re out by no choice of their own.” 

Board President Jan Grist recommended tickets also be given to students who have shown improvement in getting to school on time. Ward agreed that this should be added to the incentive program.

And though he said he was not a hashtag user, Ward encouraged the board and others to use the hashtag #attendancerebound to promote the campaign.

 

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Jenny Mendolla Arbizu

Jenny is a Hollister native who resides in her hometown with her husband and son. She graduated from San Benito High School, and received her BA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and her MA in Education from San Jose State University. Jenny has written for the Hollister Freelance, San Benito Magazine and South Valley Magazine. She finds joy in meeting new people in San Benito County and in spotlighting the county’s events and businesses. When not writing, Jenny can be found cuddling with her fur-babies, performing with SBSC, singing with the Hollister VFW, or doing rope climbs at Cold Storage CrossFit.