North Merrick Everyday Health

November 2021

A Message from the Superintendent

Dear Parents, Students, Faculty and Staff,

At the October meeting of the North Merrick Mental Health and Wellness Coalition, I outlined the many accomplishments of the coalition in benefiting our staff, students and families over the last couple of years, and how we will further build upon that foundation this year.

The coalition met again yesterday, and I was so glad to report on the restoration of many of our traditional events, such as Trunk or Treat, the fall festivals, Halloween parades, book fairs and, most recently, holiday boutiques. Our students are overjoyed to be participating again!

I am also very happy to inform you that our district has received a $200,000 grant from Nassau County Legislator Thomas McKevitt to upgrade our school playgrounds, and I'm hopeful about another grant from the state. There is nothing better than for young children to be moving and playing outdoors with their peers. More to follow on that progress!

A Whirlwind of A Week with Red Ribbon, Unity Day and Digital Citizenship Activities

During the week of October 18-22, the North Merrick School District participated in the annual Red Ribbon Week and Unity Day. Red Ribbon Week is a national drug prevention and education program with Unity Day taking place on the Wednesday to demonstrate unity against bullying and cyberbullying. The programs also emphasize good health and well-being, and each day was a different dress-up theme that varied by building from Crazy Hat Day to Pajama Day!

Also during this week, North Merrick teachers shared a variety of instructional technology resources with students for Digital Citizenship Week, such as online games, interactive read-alouds, BrainPOP videos, and Nearpod lessons. Students learned about the ripple effect of their decisions and how to make good choices.

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Fall Parent University Emphasizes Teamwork!

The fall Parent University on October 26 was set within a new, virtual game show format hosted by SO Fun City. And it was SO Much Fun! Special thanks to North Merrick teachers Amanda Hocevar and Maria Castle for organizing this special event.

North Merrick students and families collaborated to answer various types of trivia questions. When the majority voted for the correct answer, the team won points. There were double points when all the participants voted for the correct answer as well as extra points for completing various tricky challenges.

It was a close game, but, in the end, North Merrick scored 52 points edging out students from Syosset and a group in California! As Ms. Hocevar noted, "The night was all about working together as a team toward a common goal. As Hellen Keller said, 'Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.'"

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NEW! Mindfulness Clubs

The North Merrick School District has always embraced a mindful mindset, and this year, it has added Mindfulness Clubs at the three district schools. These after-school clubs will meet once a week in six-week cycles throughout the school year. There are Mindful Moments Kids Clubs for students in kindergarten through grade 2 and for students in grades 3 and 4. Additionally, there are Mindful Mentor Clubs for students in grades 5 and 6 in which the older students will learn the skills to be peer leaders and role models for their schools. Later in the school year, the fifth and sixth graders will interact directly with the younger children. Jacqueline Sekunda, adviser for the Old Mill Road Mindful Mentor Club says, "The students are engaged and excited and can't wait to share what they are learning with the younger students and families during morning announcements and through Flipgrid videos."

Mental Health and Wellness Coalition Clinical Subcommittee

Late last year, the North Merrick Mental Health and Wellness Coalition created a Resource Mapping Task Force to identify and analyze the programs, people, services, and other resources that currently exist in the school district. At the start of this school year, a Mental Health and Wellness Coalition Clinical Subcommittee was established to help steer the coalition work based on what the data from the task force indicated. Student mental health and wellness services will be aligned to increase access and efficacy. The subcommittee is also exploring new Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) programs, strategies and resources. There will be more to report as the year unfolds.

NEW Partnership! Meet Parent Guidance

The Child Mind Institute has documented the harsh impact of the pandemic on children's mental and physical well-being - but stresses that parent engagement and open communication greatly minimize that impact.

As a result, North Merrick has engaged with the Cook Center for Human Connection, a non-profit foundation created by philanthropists Greg and Julie Cook. The foundation provides free access to a vast library of parenting e-courses on the website led by licensed clinical therapists. For example, one foundational course is titled "Connecting with Children by Parenting with Purpose," moderated by clinical director Dr. Kevin Skinner on a variety of unique topics such as "Tone of Voice."

Additionally, there is a free catalogue of questions answered on video by leading mental health experts called "Ask a Therapist" as well as a monthly online "Family Mental Health Night" packed with actionable information for parents. The next one is scheduled for December 8 at 8 p.m.

"Our schools have become even stronger partners with our parents due to the pandemic, something good that came out of this stressful time," explains Dr. Seniuk, "We keep moving forward by filling our tool box with resources for our families. Situations do not always happen during the school day, and this partnership offers a solution-based approach that will further support our families at home."

Guidance Advisory Council

Dr. Edward Murphy, Assistant to the Superintendent for Pupil Personnel & Special Education, and district guidance counselor Jacqueline Sekunda, co-chaired the first meeting of the Guidance Advisory Council. According to New York State regulations, every district must develop a "comprehensive developmental school counseling/guidance program” for all K-12 students. The district's Guidance Advisory Council is comprised of community stakeholders including parents, Board of Education members, teachers, school counselors, social workers, and psychologists. The committee has reviewed the district’s current guidance plan and made recommendations and suggestions for modifications. They will meet again in the winter to monitor the progress of the plan and provide additional modifications, if needed. A big thank you to Board President Megan Ryan, Esq., and Board Trustee Kathy Moran for representing the Board of Education on this committee.