September 2019
Newsletter of the Center for Educational Improvement
Mental Health in New England Schools
Dear Educators,

As the new school year gets underway, we're challenging school leaders to ask themselves how their school supports their staff and students' mental health. At the Center for Educational Improvement, we know as educators our job is to prepare students for life outside the classroom. This means teaching them not only about academics, but also how to successfully interact with each other, regulate their emotions, and find happiness. We've spent the past few months researching and talking to  Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative  Fellows to find out what New England schools are doing to support mental health in schools. Stay tuned for a comprehensive report,  The State of Mental Health in New England Schools . Read some preliminary findings in this month's newsletter.
The State of Mental Health in New England Schools: Innovations, Needs, and Future Directions
By Vien Nguyen, CEI Intern, William Foley, Jr., CEI Intern, and Dana Asby, CEI Director of Innovation & Research Support
Is New England largely urban or rural? Poverty-stricken or wealthy? Stuck in the past or zooming into the future? The answer, like the region itself, is complex. New England, comprised of the six most northeastern states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) has unique resources and challenges that make navigating the world of school mental health overwhelming for many parents, students, and educators. We’ve explored what states in New England are doing to support their students through mental health services and social-emotional learning (SEL) programs. We hope that the innovations coming from this region can inspire your state to make the commitment that some New England states have to improving the mental health and wellbeing of its youth.

Vermont’s Department of Mental Health is Leading the Way in New England
By Lauren Kiesel and Weng Yee Moi, CEI Interns

Vermont has made a large commitment to supporting its citizens’ mental health through initiatives launched by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health (DMH ).  Vermont’s Department of Mental Health is innovative in its level of holistic compassion and positive goals and practices. Its vision is that “mental health will be a cornerstone of health in Vermont” and that “[p]eople will live in caring communities with compassion for and a determination to respond effectively and respectively to the mental health needs of all citizens” (Vermont Department of Mental Health, 2019).

The Department of Mental Health values and embraces the concepts of recovery and resiliency. In terms of trauma-informed practices and compassionate and comprehensive care and development of its people, Vermont is a leader.

Learning from Tragedy: How A Bullying-Related Teen Suicide Led to SEL Reform in Massachusetts
By Kaela Farrise, CEI Intern, and Dana Asby, CEI Director of Innovation & Research Support

This article is based on an interview with Jillayne (Jill) Flanders, former principal in South Hadley, MA, and currently an educational consultant. (August 6, 2019).

After a tragedy propelled her district into national news, Jill Flanders, then a school principal in South Hadley School District in Massachusetts, began to rethink her school’s priorities. She had the realization that excellence in writing, reading, and arithmetic could not come at the expense of the so-called “soft skills” often being overlooked in favor of standardized test preparation. For the past decade, social-emotional learning (SEL) has been moving more and more into the spotlight in Massachusetts as an essential aspect of Pre-K-12 education.

Special Invitation to
New England Educators:

Watch past webinars on school mental health issues here .

Join us in September for 2 upcoming webinars to support a compassionate school culture!

Thursday, September 26 at 4 p.m.
Featured Fellow: Erica McLaughlin

Erica McLaughlin is an elementary school principal and also a Vermont Principals Association Executive Council Board Member.

Erica McLaughlin, principal of Randolph Elementary School in Vermont, has been on a journey to lead her staff in bringing mindfulness to her school. She emphasizes that while she is the principal, this is a journey that the entire school is on together. With some trial and error, she and her team discovered how to successfully introduce mindfulness to her whole school community. Their approach to a school mindfulness practice from the top down and bottom up can inspire other school leaders to do the same.
September Heart Centered Learning Stipend Winners
We've awarded our first round of Heart Centered Learning (HCL) Stipends. Schools that received S-CCATE reports were eligible to apply for funding to support projects to enhance compassionate school communities.

  • Broad Street Elementary School will bring a speaker to learn about the neurobiology of trauma.
  • Cumberland Hill Elementary School will train staff in Conscious Discipline.
  • Lee Elementary School who will develop an art therapy program.
  • St. Albans City School will implement mindfulness practices.

We will be distributing more HCL Stipends in October. If your school is interested, make sure 7 or more staff members take the S-CCATE survey!
Book Study Begins in New England

Virtual Book Study starts
Thursday, September 19 at 4 p.m.

Join us for a discussion with two of the book's authors,  Christine Mason, Ph.D . and  Michele Rivers Murphy, Ed.D. , as they share the importance of mindfulness practice as a school leader and the planned agenda for the book study. Register here.
Improving Mental Health in Schools

T he Yale University Program for Recovery and Community Health  and the Center for Educational Improvement invite school leaders in the New England region to learn more about the Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative.

Applicable States:
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
"What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation." Glenn Close

Whether you're in New England, the Southwest, or somewhere else, we hope the efforts to improve mental health services here in the Northeast have given you some food for thought and inspiration to make mental health a priority for your 2019-2020 school year.

Christine Mason
Executive Director
Center for Educational Improvement