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    Tuesday, April 23, 2024

    Preston superintendent part of national effort on social, emotional learning

    Preston Superintendent Roy Seitsinger poses for a photo July 26, 2017, at Preston Veterans Memorial School. He is part of the nationwide School Superintendents’ Association’s Social and Emotional Learning Cohort, “a groundbreaking initiative designed to meet the needs of the ‘total child.’”(Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Preston — As Superintendent Roy Seitsinger makes the case locally this spring for hiring the district’s first social worker, he also has joined a group of school officials from across the nation to make the case that social and emotional learning should be a key part of education.

    Seitsinger is part of the School Superintendents’ Association’s Social and Emotional Learning Cohort, “a groundbreaking initiative designed to meet the needs of the ‘total child,’” according to a description of the effort on the association’s website.

    The cohort started with a goal of having at least 30 district participants, but that has grown to 50 currently. The group met for a conference March 30 through April 3 in Nashville, Tenn., and will meet again in Reno, Nev., in the fall to gather information and case studies and to make recommendations on how to implement social and emotional learning in schools.

    Seitsinger said he applied through the association’s website to make sure small, rural districts are included in the effort.

    “I’m hoping to be an advocate for small schools and rural schools,” he said. “Every social issue comes through the schoolhouse doors. Yes, we don’t have the volume of social issues that the larger districts have, but we still have to deal with them and care for the needs of the children.”

    Seitsinger tried last year to add a certified social worker to the Preston school budget for the first time, but the position was eliminated in budget cuts. This spring, he has proposed a part-time social worker for $31,415. The school board supports the plan, and some have argued the position should be full-time.

    Seitsinger believes once a part-time social worker is hired in Preston, the person’s worth will become apparent immediately. He declined to describe specifics of recent incidents, to protect the privacy of individual students in such a small district. However, he said a principal and school psychologist recently spent almost two entire days to address concerns of one family and student.

    “They did a great job in responding to the needs of the child and the family,” Seitsinger said, “but you can imagine that causes a disruption to the entire school environment.”

    In addition to responding to crises — with the ability to leave school to visit families at their home — a school social worker could work with individuals or small groups of students on emotional responses, responsible decision-making and behavioral issues, as well as work with families of troubled students.

    A certified school social worker would have specialized training in dealing with complex family and student dynamics that go beyond curriculum and instruction, Seitsinger said.

    Connecticut has three representatives on the national Social and Emotional Learning Cohort, including Seitsinger, Brookfield Assistant Superintendent Maureen Ruby and cohort Co-chairwoman Janet Robinson, the current Stratford superintendent, who was superintendent in Newtown during the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook School. Robinson had served for two years as Preston superintendent from 2003 to January 2005.

    “School administrators have a responsibility of ensuring strong academic performance from the students they serve as well as providing opportunities that will address students’ needs for social and emotional development,” Superintendents’ Association Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech said in a news release announcing the cohort on March 27.

    The association has partnered with education advocacy groups Panorama Education, Move this World and Right at School to create the initiative. Superintendents’ Association spokesman James Minichello said the Social and Emotional Learning Cohort is being funded through the three partner groups and with each participating district contributing $2,000 for a year of participation.

    Seitsinger said the first conference featured speeches by internationally known educators and specialists, group discussions and “pretty significant dialogue” during the three-day event.

    “We started toward our goal to get to a place where we’re talking about a groundbreaking initiative to meet the needs of the whole child,” he said.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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