Wawasee Offers Peer Mentoring Following Tragedies

Teens sometimes feel lonely and like nobody cares about them. And in today’s world they are more likely to talk about their problems with their peers rather than an adult.

In response to the two student suicides during the 2012-13 academic year, Wawasee High School has formed a peer facilitators program where upperclass students are assigned to mentor freshman students. Thursday is the last training session for the program, set to launch Oct. 1.

During Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee school board in Syracuse, the board saw a video clip of a news segment from a TV station (Channel 57 of South Bend) visit last week to the high school. News anchor Brian Dorman visited WHS and talked with principal Mike Schmidt as well as a few students involved in the peer program.

Schmidt noted at first the news team wanted to focus more on the struggles and losses, but he suggested the focus be more on what is being done in response and “what direction we are headed.” Essentially the peer program is about students helping students.

There are 16 peer facilitators and a total of 85 students mentoring freshman students. That is a ratio of one mentor for about three or four students. “They have to check in with them (freshman students) six times during the year,” Schmidt said.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a resolution stating the school corporation will no longer categorize its schools or evaluate staff based solely upon the A-F letter grade assigned to schools by the Indiana Department of Education. Dr. Tom Edington, Wawasee superintendent, said the letter grading system is based on ISTEP+ results and that test is based on an outdated curriculum. “Our curriculum is Common Core and we use the Northwest Evaluation Association for testing too,” he said. “We want to judge our schools on more than these narrow factors. We can come up with our own grading system.”

Edington added ISTEP+ is more about politics. Mike Wilson, school board member, asked if giving the ISTEP+ test is mandatory. Dave Cates, school corporation attorney, said “I think you probably better give the test.” But he will check to see what could happen if the school corporation does not administer the test.

Joy Goshert, director of instruction and curriculum, noted in her report ISTEP+ results from the spring were released to parents Sunday evening. But the results have not been broken down and compared to the state and only individual scores are now known. “I can say we have a greater variance in scores (between classes and grade levels) than in most years,” she said.

For a more in-depth account of the Wawasee School Board meeting, see today’s issue of The Mail-Journal.

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About Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley, associate editor for The Mail-Journal, has been with The Papers since March 2004. He edits articles for The Mail-Journal, as well as several other publications of The Papers. Ashley also covers Wawasee school board meetings, activities at Wawasee High School and Wawasee Middle School and monthly Kosciusko County Area Planning Commission meetings. A 1996 graduate of Oral Roberts University with a degree in journalism, he lives in Goshen. Staff Writer tashley@the-papers.com

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