Education shifts to include ‘whole child’ philosophy

By Melanie Yingst - Miami Valley Today



MIAMI COUNTY — The Miami County Educational Service Center continues to support the efforts of administrators, teachers and support staff for student achievement inside the classroom and beyond.

Miami County ESC Superintendent David Larson shared how the state’s educational realm now includes the “whole child” and not just their academic achievement.

Larson, who previously served as the center’s director of curriculum and instruction, succeeded Tom Dunn, who retired after eight years with the center and a long career in local public education.

“The Ohio Department of Education developed a new strategic plan that is intended to focus on the whole child and not just academic success in the core content areas,” Larson said. “This shift is a result of the recognition that our students are struggling much more with mental health and social-emotional concerns.”

Mental health and social support continue to be a topic of conversation for Miami County’s top administrators.

“We have had more conversations this year about mental health and social-emotional supports than any other topic,” Larson said. “Our students have much greater needs and schools are not equipped to provide all of the intense supports that many children require. As a whole, I would say that we are all focusing more on serving the whole child.”

The Miami County ESC is currently researching how the center can help local districts answer the call in regards to the increased demand for more social and emotional support for local school districts.

“We are looking at expanding our social-emotional services to districts. We hope to continue to partner with our districts to provide additional support for students who are struggling with emotional challenges and mental health concerns,” Larson said. “The Miami County ESC is partnering with the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health to provide Youth Mental Health First Aid to all educators in Miami County. We have received support from the “Free Your Mind — Anchor Your Soul” organization in West Milton. In addition, the Miami County Foundation and the Upper Valley Medical Center Foundation Board are both providing financial resources to support this program.”

Larson said graduation requirements continue to change, challenging educators as they guide students to earn their diplomas and nmove on to higher education or the workforce.

“Our schools continue to deal with a moving target regarding graduation requirements,” Larson said. “For the third year in a row, the General Assembly had to pass legislation to create realistic requirements in the middle of the year because of the concern of a significant number of seniors in Ohio not on track to graduate.”

Efforts continue to pair students with local businesses and industries to expose students to job and career opportunities to develop a career path.

“We have also focused on developing our Business Advisory Council in order to best prepare our students for life after high school,” Larson said. “The Miami County ESC is excited about the many businesses, chambers of commerce, school districts, and the career centers who are working together to ensure all students and their families are provided with the information and resources to make informed decisions about each child’s future.

Larson said Miami County school districts continue to make strides to respond to every child’s individual academic need.

“The Miami County school districts are doing a great job of responding to the needs of the students in Miami County,” Larson said. “They work very well with families and service agencies to support each child. We are seeing more students return from online schooling and returning to our traditional school systems.”

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By Melanie Yingst

Miami Valley Today