October 12, 2019
In an effort to increase communication, each of my updates will highlight a deeper overview of the district’s work on one area of focus. The goal is to provide a more comprehensive narrative that is informative and engaging through both my message and the related links to other sources.
It is without hesitation that I name student mental health as our first and foremost priority. The term crisis is overused in our world. Yet, those of us who have led in education for decades cannot find another appropriate word. Large numbers of students now experience chronic anxiety and depression while too many reach states of true emergency in numbers not previously seen. Although this is not a problem unique to our schools, it is documented in the most recent 2018 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data of Concord Middle School and Concord-Carlisle High School students. Even in the elementary grades, we see more children impacted by mental health related needs.
Several years ago, I worked with nationally renowned pediatrician Dr. Ken Ginsburg who specializes in adolescent medicine and resiliency. In a conversation with him, I made a comment as to the pressure kids put on themselves. Dr. Ginsburg quickly corrected me to say that the pressure is internalized from the external messages that bombard our youth: school, parents, peers, social media, college. Children in high risk categories are even more likely to be seriously impacted by these messages. A recent Washington Post article classified students in top performing environments like ours to be at more risk than some of their peers.
The development of the 2018-2023 Concord/Concord-Carlisle District Strategic Plan found consensus among students, parents, staff and community members that student wellbeing must be a priority objective. Our partners at Challenge Success inspire us to rename success as fostering independence and critical thinking rather than just test scores and grades. Throughout the year, I will provide updates on our school-based approaches and goals in structural, instructional and academic efforts to foster a more balanced approach.
This past Thursday was National Mental Health Awareness Day. Naming the concerns about the mental health of youth from early childhood to high school is the most important step to finding solutions. This topic is complex and layered. It requires that we all join in the discussion and understand its impact, our individual and collective roles and how to change course at an aggregate and personal level. Please join us in this important conversation.
Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent