Leadership Spotlight:
Creating a Culture of Caring in
Bedford Central School District
If teachers, families, and community members examine Bedford Central School District’s 2019-2020 Success Plan, they will notice that Social Emotional Learning is prominently featured as a priority area.

When asked the question, “Why Social Emotional Learning,” members of Bedford Central School District’s leadership team were quick with their responses.

 “In order for kids to learn and achieve, they need to feel safe,” Dr. Christopher Manno, Bedford’s Superintendent of Schools, shares as part of his answer to the question, “Why Social Emotional Learning?” 
He continues, “We need to tend to their emotional needs; they need to feel comfortable, and they need to feel it is a place where they belong – every student in Bedford needs to feel they are part of something.”

The district is taking tremendous steps to realize its vision of transformative change in the lives of its students. With a laser-like focus on the emotional and mental wellness of children, which is at the heart of the district’s success plan, Dr. Joel Adelberg, Acting Superintendent, indicates it comes down to igniting it within the entire school system. “The system needs to be designed to promote caring at all levels for it to really take hold in the district’s culture.”  
“All means all,” Deborah Dormady, Director of Special Education, adds when discussing the steps the district has taken to ensure the connectedness of all students. Among their proactive measures are ensuring all students have at least three adults to whom they can turn, and they have added a Coordinator of Activities, a position for a teacher on special assignment at Fox Lane High School. The Coordinator is responsible for scheduling activities, such as School Spirit Week, and building student leadership capacity.

“It’s about building a base of resources for students,” Dr. Edward Escobar, Director of Pupil Personnel Services noted.

Through partnership with PNW BOCES, Bedford enlisted speaker Dr. Dan Guerra to address the topic with the entire faculty during the district’s late August Opening Day activities. “Getting all staff on board to kick off the new school year, hearing the message, and helping to establish the why and why it matters, was important to us,” Dr. Adelberg shares. 
Bedford families, who are vital partners in this work, are voicing support as well. Dr. Adelberg leads a group of community stakeholders on student achievement. When asked, “What are the attributes that would promote student achievement?” he remembers a feeling of affirmation upon hearing parents across the community citing mental health and social emotional wellness.

Regionally, Bedford is leading in making sure all students are connected as well. This November, Dr. Escobar will be leading a workshop titled, “Supporting Transgender and Gender Expansive Students through an Administrative Lens,” in partnership with Mary Jane Karger of GLSEN and PNW BOCES via the Guidance and Child Study Center and the Center for Educational Leadership.

As Bedford continues to lead the region in its approach to SEL, its central office leadership would still consider themselves in the exploration and discovery process.

“We are learning along with our community,” Dr. Adelberg shares. “The real work starts very early, and in a thoughtful way.”