SSD/Valley Park Monthly Dispatch

May 2022

Staff Spotlight

We will continue to celebrate some of our amazing team members each month! I have asked them to share some of their professional and personal highlights. This month, we are celebrating Cara Lenk and Christy Mirth


Ms. Lenk specializes in all things post-secondary planning - with an emphasis with vocational skills. I am so proud of the work she does around transition and the transformation of our CBVI program at VP HS!


Ms. Mirth - well - this celebration is bittersweet for me. We started the same year in Valley Park and she has been a partner and natural leader this entire chapter. She has recently accepted a new position within SSD as a Measurement & Assessment Coach and will begin this new chapter in her career this fall. She will be deeply missed.

Cara Lenk

Education: BS in Special Education K-12 (UMSL), Masters in Educational Technology (Webster University), Masters in Guidance Counseling K-12 (Missouri Baptist University)


Ms. Lenk’s Professional Background and roles: 21 years at VPHS teaching CT Classes, Replacement courses, and Community Based Vocational Instruction (CBVI). Also, I am the Work Experience Coordinator (WEC) and work with transition and agencies to support students.


Some information about her family/pets: I have a chihuahua named Bella, she’s 12. I enjoy weekends with my family, enjoy the outdoors, decorating and working out at F45 5 days a week.


What is your favorite part of being a SSD team member in Valley Park?

I have always loved the small class sizes and individualized education we can provide here at Valley Park. I love the community and families, students, and teachers I work with.

Christy Mirth

My name is Christy Mirth, and I am a School Psychologist. I have a Masters in Education and Education Specialist degree from UMSL. I started my career at Washington University where a passion for students with Autism as well as data grew. I've enjoyed working at Valley Park, and it has a special place in my heart - it is where I started my school psychology career. A particular highlight has been building our response to intervention framework. I've been able to build many skills and relationships here as well, many I will never forget. My two kiddos, Emmaline and Cameron, also attended Valley Park Early Childhood Center. We are all Hawks at heart, and we always will be!

Fontbonne Summer Camp

See the attached flyer regarding the summer camp for school-age kids at Fontbonne. Contact info is on the flyer.

Social-Emotional Learning Resources


SSD has compiled a list of book and web resources for families surrounding social-emotional learning and trauma-informed practices. Families can play a dual role in raising self-aware, respectful students who know how to manage their emotions, make responsible decisions, and resolve conflicts non-violently.


View the resources on the District website: https://buff.ly/34SmPBm

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SSD Parent Education (PEDA):

Are you still thinking about what to do this summer?

The PEDA Summer Resource Packet can help!

PEDA 2022 Summer Resource Packet


Other helpful resources:

St. Louis Recreation Council www.recreationcouncil.org

Blueprint for Summer https://blueprint4.com/stl/

St. Louis County Parks Activity Guide https://bit.ly/3LHpRsp

Early Childhood Summer Resource Guide https://adobe.ly/3vSuol1


To access the YouTube Video of our recent Summer Resource Fair, click here: https://youtu.be/VVeYDiL8ykM


PEDA would love your feedback!

Please complete are PEDA Communications survey here: PEDA Survey

Wellness Corner

With warmer weather on the way, you can boost your mood by being outside and connecting with nature. According to the American Psychological Association’s article Nurtured by Nature, research shows that spending time in nature (as little as two hours a week) can have cognitive benefits, increase happiness, and improve social interactions. During your daily time outside, try using a mindfulness strategy to help you to slow down and be present in a month that seems to fly by. Take a walk and practice this grounding technique to engage your five senses.



  • 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding Technique
    • Acknowledge FIVE things you can SEE. This can be a flower, the roots of a tree, or anything around you.
    • Acknowledge FOUR things you can HEAR. This may be a car driving by, birds chirping, or your own deep breaths.
    • Acknowledge THREE things you can TOUCH. Perhaps you can feel the wind, the sun on your face, or dew on the grass.
    • Acknowledge TWO things you can SMELL. Stop to smell a flower on your walk or notice the smell of fresh-cut grass.
    • Acknowledge ONE thing you can TASTE. Maybe you can still taste your morning coffee or think of one of your favorite things to eat.

Family and Community Outreach

The mission of SSD's Family & Community Outreach division is to partner with families for each student’s academic, social, and emotional success so that students may attain an enviable life. Please see below for key resources:


  1. The Family Resource Hub – 1 min. video highlighting the features and an attached flyer. Family Resource Hub Virtual Grand Opening
  2. Recreation Council Flyer – Summer Program Guides available on 1.21.22 The Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis Summer Program Guide Announcement (flyer attached too)
  3. Youth Mental Health Training for Staff –Kickup registration link: https://pulse.kickup.co/events/browse/SKSWHzR83mUrJ7gpEPUpeh
  4. Youth Mental Health Training for Families – Google link: https://forms.gle/28CzBcceYgadDhJk6
  5. Assistance for families who may have challenges accessing the FREE Covid Tests FREE At-Home COVID Test (flyer attached too)

Family and Community Engagement Information:


The Family Resource Hub located at North Tech High School is a space dedicated to families and our community stakeholders. The resource hub offers families computer and internet access, a satellite food pantry, and support navigating community resources. The space is also dedicated to supporting families by hosting learning labs, community events, and a safe and supportive environment to learn with and from one another.


You’re welcome to set an appointment to meet us there.

Please call 314-989-8311 or email FamilyEngagement@ssdmo.org

Now Hiring Substitute Teachers

Virtual Lunch & Learn series for SSD families and stakeholders

Special School District’s Family and Community Outreach, Social Work, Parent Education and Diversity Awareness (PEDA) and Communications departments have teamed up to offer a virtual Lunch & Learn series for SSD families and stakeholders.


The series, which will involve community organizations sharing information about their work, will take place on the first Wednesday of each month during the 2021-22 school year, from 11:30 AM - Noon.


Representatives from nine community organizations will participate in order to increase awareness about their agency and make connections with those in our SSD community who may benefit from their programs and services.


Organizations represented in the Lunch & Learn series include:

Fall 2022 semester SSD Family Leadership Institute FLI

Coming Soon!

Applications will be available soon for the Fall 2022 semester SSD Family Leadership Institute FLI (Formerly Parent Leadership Institute PLI).

The Institute which has over 275 graduates to date, was created for families in 2007 to offer information, training, and resources. Participants gain the knowledge and skills to effectively collaborate with other families, school personnel and develop leadership for SSD and their home districts.

Participants will:

  • Build understanding of future planning and problem-solving, utilizing Charting the LifeCourse tools;
  • Learn to effectively participate in their child’s education and improve the educational climate for all children;
  • Learn how to positively interact and collaborate with other families and school personnel; and
  • Discover new resources and network with other families.

FLI Graduates have:

  • Served on School boards
  • Been elected as Parent Advisory Council (PAC) President(s)
  • Actively participated in SSD and/or local school district PACs
  • And further increased their leadership training in policy development and mentorship.

Contact us at ssdpeda@ssdmo.org or call 314.989.8460 if you have any questions or concerns.

Some Quotes from graduates.

  • Thank you so much for everything! I feel very lucky to have found this opportunity.
  • It was helpful to learn how Charting LifeCourse Tools could play a part in every step of the way.
  • The topics and presenters made the program engaging and informative.
  • Learned a lot about planning for my child’s future and the IEP process.
  • I'm really glad I signed up for this program. I had no idea what to expect and learned so, so much about the available tools and all the SSD processes we will be experiencing during his life.
  • The deep dive on the IEP history/process was incredibly helpful to give a framework on my ability to participate since my family is very new to the IEP process.
  • The IEP information was incredibly helpful. It was a bit like pulling back the curtain on something that was previously a complete mystery.
  • I am so thankful for this workshop and for the information, and materials you’ve shared w/ me. Thanks for facilitating the training so well. It’s great to have a safe space to talk openly with experts and other parents about education, IEPs, 504, Inclusion, challenges, etc. The choice of speaker, topics, resources and lending library was all great.
  • Amazing group of people. Chance for honest conversations. Helps me be a better advocate & team member.
  • Amazing experience – tons of knowledge shared. Lots of great connections with families. Better understanding of IEP process. I feel empowered to do more – create positive change. Opened my eyes to some realities approaching with transition to adulthood.

  • We received a lot of great information in this class! I has made me change the way I look at the whole process, and how I approach things with my daughter. I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity!

  • I am no longer feeling so alone & confused. Feel I can be a better advocate.

  • Attending this institute was an awesome opportunity I turned out to be much more than I expected. It gave me a better understanding about the transition process & how I can best support my child through transition. It generated a lot of ideas for my child’s last IEP. I feel so much more equipped to navigate SSD=land, as well as help others navigate it too.

  • Amazing. Blessing. You’ve enabled me to think more positively and concretely about my son’s future. I have always said “there’s no outline for me to follow” – but you’ve given me the framework I desired, support & connections!

LaTrisa A. Morgan, M.A.

Administrator, Student Support Services

VP Upcoming Events

Valley Park Families! As you plan for this school year - here is the calendar. Click in to www.vp.k12.mo.us/calendar to see all the important dates for your hawk! As always, dates are subject to change. #VPPride

VP: To access key school information, please go to the following sites:

Valley Park Elementary School: https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/Domain/8


Valley Park Middle School: https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/Domain/9


Valley Park High School: https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/Domain/10


Valley Park Early Childhood Center: https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/domain/364

Message to Families - from Valley Park

One Community. One Campus. Limitless Learning.


The Valley Park School District is dedicated to providing a safe and supportive environment of belonging where personalized learning experiences prepare our students holistically for limitless opportunities, empowering them to make the world a better place.


Please keep up to date with Dr. Dilg's communications in regards to our Return to Learn Plan:

https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/domain/358

Contact Us

Special School District of St. Louis County

12110 Clayton Road

Town & Country, MO 63131

Phone: 314‐989‐8100


Julie Schroeder


Dana Evans


Christy Mirth

SSD Valley Park Feedback

Families - we want to hear from you! If you have a celebration, concern, or idea for our SSD team - please add it to this survey. I will do my best to consider all feedback ~


https://forms.gle/LnxHaVYucv2zCxnRA

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Health and Wellness