Urban School Wellness Coalition

This week, Jamie Sparks and I co-facilitated two sessions of the Urban School Wellness Coalition convened by Action for Healthy Kids. This Coalition, comprised of thirty large urban districts came together in Denver to network, share stories, gain knowledge around Wellness Policies, the WellSATEvery Students Succeed Act (ESSA), Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) and observe WSCC in action at a local school!


Jamie and I spent about 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon on ESSA. We introduced the federal legislation, including key Titles for those unfamiliar with it, shared Cairn Guidance's State ESSA Analysis, and allowed district participants time to review their states' analysis to determine opportunities and challenges within their districts as they move ahead. Yesterday, we spent the morning on WSCC- introducing the framework, sharing effective practices around the school health approach, systems thinking; systems changing, creating buy-in and addressing resistance and brought participants through a variety of engaging activities in order for districts to essentially begin to see how ESSA and WSCC, advocacy, support, implementation are feasible and achievable at home!

We created and share our ESSA/WSCC Symbaloo page- a page that showcases the most current, helpful resources in the school health field. Feel free to share with your colleagues.

We were honored to have the chance to network, socialize, share, train education leaders around the country this week- what a fabulous group truly dedicated to shifting the norms of how we define school success in the United States. 

Since 2013, the Urban School Wellness Coalition brings together urban district health and wellness leaders to facilitate discussion around mutually important issues, provide opportunities to share information, network with peers, coordinate joint efforts, and inform urban educational leaders on the importance of student health as a driver of academic success.
— Action for Healthy Kids

OEA Choice Trust's School Employee Wellness Conference

Kudos to OEA Choice Trust! Their sixth annual School Employee Wellness (SEW) Conference was a huge success. The conference, held in Oregon during spring break, attracts many public health partners, community based organizations, teachers, superintendents, principals, school nurses, human resource directors, and other types of educators that work in school systems. The event is up to 275 participants from 50 their first year!

 Best part of the SEW conference is seeing colleagues that I've known for over 10 years!

Best part of the SEW conference is seeing colleagues that I've known for over 10 years!

This conference does an incredible job of walking the talk. It's held in Bend, a beautiful area of Oregon and each morning prior to opening sessions, group yoga, runs and walks are offered. Mid-afternoon, Zumba, walks, runs, essential oils and healthy snack learning boosts are offered. The food was colorful and nutrient rich. There were times to network, tell your story, connect and find opportunities to find intersections of your work with others. 

I facilitated two sessions, one on School Health Advisory Committees and their role in sustaining a school health initiative, and, Creating Buy-In and Addressing Resistance for your School Employee Wellness Program. Both were well attended with great participation in activities and rich dialogue. 

I love being asked to present at this conference for a variety of reasons, but most importantly, I love hearing the stories schools share to create a culture of health for their school staff. The examples of taking care of your employees so that they can do their best jobs with kids, so that they are present, so that they are healthy, and, so they stay in their position (retention). This event is a perfect example of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Framework in action. Taking one component- employee wellness, but using a coordinated, collaborative approach that engages public health, parents, internal educators, leadership, community partners, grocery stores, gyms, health care systems and policy makers to support one of the most important jobs in this country!

American School Health Association Conference 2015

I don't remember when my first ASHA conference was, but it was at least ten years ago and I think I've attended every year since. The American School Health Association's mission is to transform all schools into places where every student learns and thrives. I'd love for the organization to grow, for all school administrators to put the health and well-being of their school community first in order to see their students' academics improve. However, that's not the world we live in.

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RMC Health Board Meeting and Healthy School Leadership Retreat

It has been a fantastic week in Vail, Colorado! I feel incredibly fortunate to be on the Board of Directors of RMC Health, a non-profit that serves those working to improve the mental, physical, social and emotional health of children and youth. We had a great Board meeting that included both a business meeting and some strategic planning for the future. 

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An “Outsider” Looking In to KY SHAPE's Cadre by Charisse Poynter

When I was invited to attend the Kentucky Department of Education's KY SHAPE Cadre at Lake Cumberland State Park, I was excited.  I admit to being anxious during my drive, because I did not know what to expect or how I would relate to the Cadre members and the material being covered since I am not from a teaching background.

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No more cupcakes for birthday parties?

What do you mean I can't task a student do laps around the track when he/she misbehaves?
I can't hold my annual cookie dough fundraiser for our football and band uniforms?
What do you mean I can't take away recess when a student hasn't completed their work?

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Supporting Sustainability

This past Saturday, I helped coordinate, facilitate and keynote an event with Prince Georges County Public Schools (PGCPS), the 19th largest school district in the country. We were fortunate to have three essential organizations represented.

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What Have We Been Up To?

Here is an update about what Cairn Guidance has been up to recently. We are so excited to be working in school health, community health and within the content areas of: tele-medicine, after-school programming for youth, school health policies, facilitation, keynoting, bicycle and pedestrian-friendly streets, sustainability, curriculum, systems thinking, suicide prevention, mental health promotion, and obesity prevention! 

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky- Jess is a part time project officer for the Foundation, overseeing sub-grantee projects around Kentucky. These projects are funded through the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF) and focus on a variety of community health issues. Through the Foundation, Jess was invited to the White House this upcoming Friday for a SIF reception displaying some of the innovative projects being implemented around the country. She is honored to have been invited to participate in this great event!

Prince Georges County Public Schools (PGCPS)- We have just completed a review of PGCPS District Wellness Policy and all other related school health policies, including Bullying/Harassment, Crisis, Recess, Competitive Foods and HIV policies. We are also helping to facilitate a Health and Wellness Team Conference on September 27 for over 100 participants across their school system, representing school nurses, health education teachers, physical education teachers, cafeteria managers and school administrators. I will be keynoting the day to energize participants and helping facilitate school health related information, best practices and sustainability of their school health work. Both the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and ASCD will be present to help support the district’s commitment to being “Great By Choice” and choosing to invest more in health promotion, disease prevention, quality health care while in school for their students, health screenings for their staff and increased family engagement in school health and wellness committees in order to improve academic achievement for ALL students attending their public schools.

American School Health Association (ASHA)- ASHA is in Portland Oct 9-11! Jess will be facilitating the first-timer’s session at ASHA this year, on Friday morning. She is also presenting a workshop on “Creating Lasting School Health Programs,” focused on how to create sustainable school health initiatives. 

Alaska Department of Education- Jess will be traveling up to Anchorage in October to facilitate the Systems Thinking; Systems Changing Simulation for districts in Alaska working on chronic disease and school health, some CDC 1305/Quad Grant-selected districts.  Jess is excited that this trip falls right after ASHA’s conference in Portland and will allow a couple of days in Seward AK to ‘play’!

Alta Planning/Grand Rapids MI Transportation Project- Cairn Guidance is working with Alta Planning to create a safer, healthier city. We are working on a project funded by the transportation to create a more bicycle/pedestrian friendly city. Cairn’s role will be to create adult-learning modules to promote safe bicycling and walking around the city, during all times throughout the year. We are mentioned in this article on the project.

EVEN- EVEN is an initiative Cairn is helping launch around mental health. The project includes a High School suicide prevention project and will be expanding to address mental health within communities, specifically military and their families, K-12 schools and in work settings addressing employee wellness. More to come on this project!

HYPE Project- Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina partnered with the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to create the Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) Project. It was created through funding from the Federal Community Transformation Grant Program as a part of the Healthy South Carolina Initiative.

The purpose of the HYPE Project is to motivate and engage youth in policy, systems, and environmental obesity change efforts throughout South Carolina. The HYPE Project will build the skills of youth so that they can become a greater voice in their communities. The HYPE Project activities focus on healthy eating and active living; however, youth are encouraged to use the skills they learn to be lifelong champions of positive change.

Cairn Guidance is reviewing HYPE’s student and facilitator guides in order to strengthen the program. Using their pilot and evaluation feedback and reviewing the program through the lens of the Health Education Analysis Tool, we will provide additions and revisions as needed.

Southern Obesity Summit- Jess will be keynoting this conference on Tuesday, October 7 in Louisville. Her “Do Something Extraordinary” keynote will motivate and energize participants to continue to fight obesity in their communities and set personal wellness goals to take care of their own health. 


Kentucky Leadership Summit on Childhood Obesity

 Afternoon panel at the KY Leadership Summit on Childhood Obesity

Afternoon panel at the KY Leadership Summit on Childhood Obesity

Yesterday, I was invited to an event that began with a wonderful reception at the Maxwell Place, residence of Drs Eli and Mary Lynne Capilouto (President and his wife) on the University of Kentucky's campus. The University of Kentucky (UK) hosted the KY Leadership Summit on Childhood Obesity in partnership with Kentucky Youth Advocates and Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and with support of a health policy grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Summit kicked off after the reception with opening remarks from Dr. Steven Wyatt from the School of Public Health at UK and Terry Brooks, Executive Director at Kentucky Youth Advocates. They both did a good job of framing the day… why we were there and what they hope we would accomplish by the end of the day. We were a selected group of organizations and individuals (about 50 people total) in attendance and they hoped we would come to consensus on 3 action items for next steps to address childhood obesity in the Commonwealth. 

We don’t know how to eat, how to create calorie-rich environments.
— David Jones, Jr, Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education Member, Humana Board of Directors and Chairman of Chrysalis Ventures.

Bill Goodman from Kentucky Education Television interviewed David Jones, representing the Board of Education for Jefferson County Public Schools. David was the Chair of the Humana Board (in which he is still a member) and runs a venture capitalist, Chrysalis Ventures that funds innovative health and technology projects. David suggested that in Kentucky we are fortunate to have a lot of green space, where farmers markets and community gardens may continue to flourish. However, in the urban settings, which he called vertical cities, green space is few and far between. The key to change is using science, knowledge and marketing skills to change the food industry. With Yum! Brands located in Kentucky, we have an opportunity to work with them, not against them, to change the landscape in our communities. They have the skills, brain power and background in the engineering of food in which we can tap into to create healthier communities. David would like to see more education, as he views education to be a direct correlation to health. He also believes we need to change the price of calories, making the nutrient-rich choice the more affordable one. 

Who are you trying to punish? The teacher or the kid?
— Tom Shelton, Superintendent Fayette County School

After the morning interview with David, there were 4, 10 minute TED-style talks given by Dr. Leon Mooneyhan, CEO from Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, Dr. Heather Erwin, Director of Graduate Studies at UK, Dr. Tom Shelton Superintendent, Fayette County Schools and Jamie Sparks, Director of Coordinated School Health, Kentucky Department of Education. Highlights include Heather discussing the research behind how implementing Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP) does NOT decrease academic achievement. She went on to discuss the links between health and academic achievement. Tom Shelton talked about how schools sometimes implement silent lunch and take away recess or use physical activity as a punishment. Tom asked, "Who are you trying to punish? The teacher or the kid?" Jamie talked about how in school health we keep trying to find more water to put out the fire versus actually addressing the issues. "We need to get to a point where PE and Health Education is a normal part of the school day. Obesity is a river with lots of contributaries. There are many moving parts." Jamie went on to say that racial, disability and gender inequities were not created within school environments. They were bigger social issues in which schools addressed and became agents of change. Obesity is no different. Schools, as entire communities should address the issue. 

 Jess Lawrence, Mary Lynne Capilouto and Jamie Sparks

Jess Lawrence, Mary Lynne Capilouto and Jamie Sparks

In the afternoon, there was an expert panel facilitated by Bill Goodman and included Julie Brackett, VP of Advocacy at the American Heart Association, Dr. Heather Erwin, Director of Graduate Studies at UK, Dr. Stu Silverman, ED at Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and Dr. Susan Zepeda, CEO Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. I currently do contract work with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and was thrilled to hear Susan discuss how philanthropy/Foundations can help support and address the issue of childhood obesity within schools. She reminded us how the norm should be creating healthy environments and how we all need to model healthy behaviors. We did it with tobacco.

Put a certified PE teacher in every school.
— Wilson Sears, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents

We were then assigned into break out groups to discuss what the ONE next step we would like to see to address childhood obesity within school environments in the Commonwealth. It was wonderful to hear Wilson Sears from the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents say, "Put a certified PE teacher in every school." My break out discussed building awareness, who the right influencers are to build awareness, fitness measures for schools and increase community engagement. Each of the 3 break out groups came to consensus on their top three ideas and from there, all 9 ideas were distilled to three. The three big ideas will be around support and professional development to educators (builds awareness), community and school partnerships and policy. Next steps include workgroups to being strategic planning to implement some of the ideas we discussed in the initial meeting. 

Organizations represented were:
Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky School Board Association
Kentucky Cancer Consortium
YMCA of Greater Louisville
American Heart Association
Kentucky Department of Education
University of Kentucky
Tweens Coalition
Center for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
Former Meade County Superintendent 
KY Assocation for Health, PE, Recreation and Dance
Lexington YMCA
Kentucky Legislature
Kentucky Education Television
Friedell Committee
Kentucky Association of School Councils
Hardin County Schools
JCPS Board of Education
UK, College of Education, School of Public Health, Department of Pediatrics, College of Agriculture
Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Kentucky Board of Education
KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services
KY Association of School Superintendents
Fayette County Schools
Prichard Committee
Kentucky PTA
Lincoln County Schools

Susan Zepeda encouraged us all to model healthy activities. Proud to say the day ended with a gorgeous bicycle ride in Mammoth Cave National Park with Jamie Sparks and Stephanie Bunge from the Kentucky Department of Education while traveling from this event in Lexington to Bowling Green for another school health event the following day!

 Jess Lawrence, Stephanie Bunge and Jamie Sparks enjoying a bike ride after the event!

Jess Lawrence, Stephanie Bunge and Jamie Sparks enjoying a bike ride after the event!