Two reports were among the agenda items for the regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee school board Tuesday evening in Syracuse.
The board heard a report about the peer facilitators program at Wawasee High School and also a report from Amy Evans, science teacher at Milford Middle School, about what she plans to do with a Lily Endowment grant she received.
Mike Schmidt, principal at the high school, said the peer facilitators program was started for many reasons, but “it gives students a voice.” Students are more likely to listen to other students than they are to an adult, he added.
Students struggling with academics or other problems are matched, usually two to one, with peer facilitators. WHS students Allison Ousley, Gabrielle Camerana, Elizabeth Jackson and Kody Carpenter, all peer facilitators, each gave brief reports about the program to the board.
Ousley said the program shows struggling students someone does care about them, it has helped reduce the depression rate and has also helped to provide hope. It has changed behaviors and the overall mood throughout the school, too.
Camerana said confidentiality is strongly stressed and facilitators offer coping skills, not advice. “We let them come to their own solutions,” he said.
Jackson said students in need of a facilitator could be making the transition to high school from middle school, have extreme stress, family problems, eating disorders, attendance problems or many other issues.
Carpenter said more than 100 facilitations have taken place since the program started earlier in the school year. He said he believes the school has changed for the better and there are fewer cliques and students are more likely to talk with students they normally wouldn’t talk with. “Kids are more apt to share because of the confidentiality,” he said, and added the facilitators have been changed for the better too.
Schmidt stressed the confidentiality and said if it is violated at all, the facilitator is immediately removed from the program. It was also emphasized facilitators are trained to identify more serious problems such as suicidal tendencies and report those to adult administrators.
Evans received a $10,000 Lily grant and will travel through several states experiencing “up and coming” outdoor adventures. Those will include river boarding, wind surfing on Lake Michigan and several others.
She will then share her experiences with students and allow them, in a safe way, to experience outdoor adventures on a smaller scale during day trips.
In other business, the board also heard a brief report from Bob Lahrman, transportation director for the school corporation, about procedures for determining whether school is delayed or canceled for the day because of the weather. He said three staff members on a rotating basis begin driving around the entire school corporation beginning at 4 a.m. each day.
He noted a determination is usually made, but not always, between 5:45 a.m. and 6 a.m. When the weather is extremely bad, calling off school is an easy decision but some days it is not so easy to decide. “It is certainly not an exact science,” added Dr. Tom Edington, Wawasee superintendent, and a wind chill chart is also used in making decisions.
(For a more in-depth account of the meeting, see this week’s issue of The Mail-Journal.)