“Like adjusting the timing on an engine”

From left to right: Todd King (Assistant Director Behavioral Health/Elementary), Jodi GreyEyes (Assistant Director, Behavioral Health/Secondary), Elissa Dornan (Director of Behavioral Health and MTSS), and Superintendent Tom Seigel

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Healthy Youth Survey indicated that some of our students were not getting the social and emotional help that they needed, in school or elsewhere. This included more than fifty percent of our 8th, 10th and 12th graders reporting that they felt “nervous, anxious or on edge.”

In a district that serves more than 20,000 students, there is a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and academic challenges that kids are working to overcome each and every day.

And they can’t do it alone.

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

While the schools in our district have been working hard on the social and emotional well-being of their students, there has never been a team at the district level focused solely on overseeing that important work — until now.

Our newly-formed MTSS team is set on making sure that ALL kids are receiving the social, emotional support that they need to be the best they can.

For part of this first year the team will be determining what supports already exist in each school and how they can best support them as they work with students. They will start by meeting with building principals and leadership teams to learn about the community and culture of each school and how the MTSS team can best help.

Under MTSS, all students will receive the same universal best practices. Some students will receive additional support as it’s needed, and a few students will receive additional individual support. As support is provided to students, staff will be monitoring the progress and adjusting it as needed.

“We are determined, optimistic, and ready to make a positive difference in the lives of our students and staff.”

– Elissa Dornan, Director of Behavioral Health and MTSS

But this is just the beginning. The MTSS team’s goals include partnering with a community-wide network of supports, improving the educational, behavioral, mental health, drug use reduction and social outcomes for our students.

It’s a monumental task, but one the team is ready to tackle.

“There is a huge body of research that exists to support teachers collaborating and working together to ensure student success. What we get to do as a team now is help schools connect those systems and get them working together,” said Todd King, MTSS Assistant Director of Behavioral Health/Elementary.

King is new to our district, but he’s been working in elementary special education for 14 years in a variety of roles, from paraeducator to teacher to administrator.

“Our primary role will be to help diagnose issues within the systems that those teams are using, and support them with changes so their teams run more efficiently,” he said. “Sort of like adjusting the timing on an engine. When the mechanic makes a little tweak here and turns a screw over there, the car goes from knocks and pings in the engine to purring down the highway.”

King said it’s when that “engine” is purring that students find the greatest success.

3 Year Multi-District Partnership with OSPI

Our MTSS team isn’t tackling this issue alone. They are part of a partnership with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. According to OSPI’s RJ Monton, the Bethel team demonstrated, “the readiness and commitment that we see to be necessary to fully benefit from our planned Professional Development and Technical Assistance model.”

Jodi GreyEyes has worked for 28 years as a high school counselor. Seventeen of those years were at Graham-Kapowsin High School. She is kicking off the new school year as the Assistant Director of Behavioral Health/Secondary with the MTSS team.

“It will be great to be able to learn alongside other school districts in the cohort … to ensure that we are building a system that will be sustainable in Bethel School District,” she said.

King agreed. “It is an honor to know that not only will our work benefit the students in our district, but this will also be work that informs best practices for our state. It will be very fun to see how our efforts may translate into improved learning outcomes for all students in Washington.”

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Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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