Wellness Room for Teachers

Ward Melville High School, part of the Three Village School District in East Setauket, NY, offers a lesson in serenity for teachers and staff by helping them de-stress after a hectic workday. They created “WellVille,” a room dedicated as part of the wellness program that has been transformed into an experience featuring soft lighting, relaxing music, and lounge chairs. “I have always believed that if you have happy, healthy teachers, that trickles down to happy, healthy children—and guess who that trickles down to? Happy, healthy parents,” says Debbi Rakowsky, the district’s wellness social worker. WellVille is not open to students, but it is available for all levels of staff, from teachers to security to clerical workers

Improving School Performance with Texting

Text messages are offering new promise for closing gaps in student achievement. At the secondary level, well-timed, well-crafted text messages to parents have led to a decrease in absences and an increase in homework completion and improved grades. “The past six years have seen an explosion of evidence around how to engage parents at scale through low-cost technological interventions,” says Peter Bergman, an assistant professor of economics and education at the Teachers College at Columbia University. “Texting is just a means to an end,” he says. “It’s really about reaching parents at the right time with the right information.” Bergman was one of the first researchers to study the results of sending texts to parents. For one of his early studies at a Los Angeles high school in 2010, he sent messages from his own phone to hundreds of parents of students who were missing homework. The results were striking: Homework completion of the students whose parents were texted shot up by 25 percent compared with students who missed an equal number of assignments but whose parents were not texted. Thanks to the ubiquity of cellphones, the text alerts allowed parents to receive accurate information about their student’s performance, and it created an opportunity for them to intervene in a timely manner.

Flint Schools Receive Water Stations, Filtration Systems From Elon Musk

Billionaire inventor Elon Musk and his Musk Foundation donated nearly half a million dollars for water stations and filtration equipment for every building in Flint Community Schools in Flint, MI. The district says it will use the donation to replace drinking fountains with water stations using ultraviolet filtration equipment. The drinking fountains have been out of service since the Flint water crisis in 2015. “The new water filtration systems will be instrumental in helping our students return to the normalcy of what should be a fundamental right: having access to safe, clean water from water fountains in their school,” says superintendent Derrick Lopez.

Bill Signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom Addresses “Lunch Shaming”

SB 265 requires that all public school students in California have a “state reimbursable” meal provided by the school “even if their parent or guardian has unpaid meal fees.” It amends the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017, which stated that students with lunch debts be offered “alternative” meals by school districts, charter schools, and boards of education.

The phenomenon of “lunch shaming” students, including taking away meals on students’ birthdays, firing cafeteria employees, and threatening to send students to foster care—has drawn ire from parents, fellow students, and business owners. Newsom referred to the story of Ryan Kyote, a third-grade student in Napa, CA, who used his saved allowance to pay off his classmates’ outstanding lunch debts after seeing that a student was forced to return her hot lunch because of debt. The two met in August, which Newsom called “an honor.”

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