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Suicide prevention initiatives, grants, new positions addressed at school board meeting

School board discussing the conference agenda. Credit: Anna Lapteva / The Foothill Dragon Press

During the school board meeting on Sept. 25, the public had the opportunity to observe the discussions on topics of school successes, position approvals, grant requests and others concerning the Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified).

Following the standard procedures of pledging allegiance and roll call, the meeting commenced with reports from student board members, including Foothill’s Associated Student Body (ASB) President Abby Sourwine ‘19.

Sourwine reported on the various successes and new changes taking place at Foothill, including the advancements of the Design Technology (D-Tech) Academy, the incoming revamping of the Foothill website, new teachers, successes in sports and class involvement in activities organized by ASB.

“On campus, we’re seeing an upward trend in morale and unity,” she relayed to the board and attendees. “For the second year, we had No Backpack Day on the first day of school instead of the typical syllabus day. The first day was focused on bonding games and activities. This way, when it does comes time for coursework, students know their teachers and their classmates a little bit better and feel a little bit more comfortable asking questions and working in groups, and this helps foster a safe environment for our students.”

The board also congratulated the promotion of the previous Juanamaria Elementary School Principal Gina Wolowicz on her new position as Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

“I’ve had so much fun being the leader of Juanamaria School for almost 10 years now,” Wolowicz said. “I’m very excited to join the very dynamic and knowledgeable team, and I’m excited to start a new chapter.”

Prior to the conference agenda, there was one public comment by Deborah Meyer-Morris, who spoke about the BreakThrough Student Assistance Program, an initiative intended to assist all studentsespecially those managing mental health complicationsin successfully navigating their way through their academic career.

“In light of the fact that [October] is an important month called Suicide Prevention Month, I wanted to just commend the board for continuing to work on implementing Ed. Code 215,” Meyer-Morris said, referring to California’s education code which addresses prevention, intervention and postvention of suicide in pupils in grades seven through 12.



On a similar tangent, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Danielle Cortes and Director of Student Performance and Program Evaluation Rene Rickard presented Ventura Unified’s application for a competitive Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant, which will be used to satisfy the “need for social/emotional learning, bullying prevention [and] suicide prevention,” according to Rickard.

The grant “has the potential of $1.5 million for our district in three different areas that we will be pursuing,” Rickard said. The three directions of focus are “well-rounded opportunities, healthy and safe school environments and, of course, access to technology.”



“I want to thank you for the work you’re doing,” School Board Vice President Mary Haffner said, referring to the Cortes’ and Rickard’s efforts towards obtaining the grant. “You can have policies, and you can write as many policies as you want, but unless and until you actually are able to implement those and have professional development, […] we don’t have a staff that is trained in areas they need to be trained in.”

The board also held a discussion regarding the inauguration of a communications coordinator position, the responsibilities of which would involve establishing contact with parents, raising awareness about potential crises and maintaining public forums. The next step is the creation of a sufficiently expounded job description, which will be examined by the board in the future.

In coming meetings, the board will have a presentation on various campus booster clubs, a discourse on the transition of Ventura Unified into the BreakThrough Program and a discussion on the enforcement of Title IX within Ventura Unified schools.

Editor’s Note: Abby Sourwine ‘19 is a sports writer for the Foothill Dragon Press and was not involved with the reporting or publication of this article.

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Suicide prevention initiatives, grants, new positions addressed at school board meeting