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Efforts by school districts to prioritize wellbeing require dedicated time from a multi-level leadership team.

Efforts by school districts to prioritize wellbeing require dedicated time from a multi-level leadership team.

As part of their participation, each pilot district identified one person to act as the Community Liaison for the WellAhead process, who in turn was encouraged to identify a local implementation team to support them. Having a team of people work together, discuss ideas and share the responsibility for this work was a key success factor in moving the wellbeing agenda forward. In particular, our experience this past year showed the most successful teams had two key members:

  • One person with time specifically dedicated to this work or a role focused on promoting wellbeing in schools (e.g. a healthy schools coordinator) is key to curating the work – connecting the dots between activities, organizing meetings and events, and asking evaluative and reflective questions throughout.
  • An actively engaged administrator or district senior leader was also an important part of the team. This role can help ensure that the wellbeing effort fits into district-wide plans, language, and budgets.They can also maintain the initiative as a standing agenda item in district-level meetings. Without this role, school-level efforts were not adequately connected to district-level priorities and conversations.

This finding is consistent with evidence from the field, which suggests that an implementation team is core to success of a school-based mental health initiative.1

In SD 48 Sea to Sky, the WellAhead Community Liaison, Sheena Cholewka, was a school psychologist with specific time dedicated to promoting wellbeing district-wide. The support she had from administrators was key. When her team expanded to include an educator and the district principal for aboriginal education, the work of promoting social and emotional wellbeing had much wider reach and meaning. This was reflected in the scaling of SD 48’s everyday practice, Circle, which spread far beyond the initial prototyping team.

Short, K (2016). Intentional, explicit, systematic: Implementation and scale-up of effective practices for supporting student mental well-being in Ontario schools. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 18(1). Pp-33-48