Rise Program and ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ Initiative Highlighted at Wall School Board Meeting

The Wall School Board meeting on December 19, 2023, delved into the issues surrounding student mental health and plans for its improvement, the departure of two board members, as well as addressing community concerns, among other matters of interest.

The Rise program, proposed to address the increasing mental health challenges faced by students, was a focal point of the meeting. Presented by Dr. Nancy Samaha and Sue Moren, the Rise program aims to provide individualized, therapeutic, and academic support for students in grades 9-12 with an IEP due to emotional difficulties. The program proposes to offer therapy options such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, along with family support services. Moren shared a personal experience to underscore the severity of anxiety and panic that students may confront, emphasizing the need for a supportive, restorative environment. The program also plans to employ a licensed clinician dedicated to the program and integrate mindfulness approaches. It was highlighted that keeping students within their home school presents financial and educational benefits.

In the same vein of promoting student well-being, the board discussed a districtwide initiative called “the seven mindsets program.” This program focuses on building resilience, gratitude, and social awareness in students, with the current emphasis on the “attitude of gratitude” mindset. Activities aligned with this mindset involve students journaling on gratitude-related topics and creating spirit days, aiming to promote kindness and gratitude among students.

Another point of discussion was the departure of two board members, Christopher San Filippo and Kristen Hodnett. Board President Christine Steitz and Superintendent Dr. Tracy Handerhan, among others, expressed their gratitude for the contributions of the departing members. Miss Hodnett’s expertise in special education and Mr. San Filippo’s leadership in the superintendent search committee were specifically acknowledged.

Public comment during the meeting brought forward concerns about various issues, including housing considerations for students, transparency of board decisions, and the allocation of funds. Dr. Raj Gupta requested consideration for his daughter’s enrollment in Wall Township schools due to their current housing situation, while Betsy Cross questioned the board’s transparency in decision-making and allocation of funds.

The meeting also included recognition of high school students of the month and Knights of the Week, updates on programs such as the Wreaths Across America initiative, and the announcement of upcoming kindergarten and preschool registration dates for the 2024-2025 school year. The board also reviewed and made progress on various construction projects, including the pouring of stairs at Allenwood and the closing out of the high school roof.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Dr. Tracy Handerhan
School Board Officials:
Christine Steitz, Adam Nasr, Ralph Addonizio, Thomas Buffa, Kathleen DiGiovanni, Kristen Hodnett, James Maliff, Christopher San Filippo, Kenneth Wondrack

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