Empowering Regional Leads to Customize Social-Emotional Wellness Supports

Empowering Regional Leads to Customize Social-Emotional Wellness Supports

Mar 11, 2024
Megan Streeter and Scott Kuren
Workers collaborating.

The social-emotional wellness of students and school staff has been a longstanding concern—a concern that schools across the country have been working to address with an unprecedented sense of urgency since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Office for Safe Schools (OSS) recognized this time as an opportunity to strengthen the 29 Intermediate Units (IUs) across the commonwealth, building their capacity to deliver evidence-based technical assistance and professional development to districts in their regions to improve social-emotional wellness in schools. 

The IUs provide ancillary services based on the needs of the locally controlled school districts within their catchment areas. OSS tapped into this existing service structure and is allocating state funding to support a dedicated social-emotional wellness lead (SEW lead) in each IU. These new IU SEW leads act as regionally based conduits for OSS, offering districts tailored technical assistance to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for all students and staff.

OSS and REL Mid-Atlantic are working together to implement this vision.

One of our joint efforts focuses on building OSS's capacity to support IU SEW leads and building IUs' capacity to support the specific needs of districts. We co-developed a logic model, describing the initiatives and key players that support social-emotional wellness in Pennsylvania—and identifying measurable outcomes, such as the resiliency and self-efficacy of students and the professional well-being and job satisfaction of staff. OSS will eventually incorporate these social-emotional wellness measures into an existing dashboard to track outcomes.

We then co-developed a planning guide to help the IU SEW leads plan and deliver evidence-based professional development and technical assistance to the districts in their regions. The planning guide aligns with the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Accelerated Learning Framework and the cycles of continuous school improvement shown below. The resources included in the guide build IU SEW leads' capacity to help districts identify social-emotional needs, plan and deliver comprehensive, evidence-based supports, and measure outcomes in their schools. Though still in draft form, it's helping us promote a strategic, consistent, and evidence-based approach to addressing student and staff needs.

We don't want the IU leads to push a specific social-emotional wellness initiative; the last thing people in the field want to hear is that they need to implement a program that doesn't fit their needs. Instead, we want IU leads to select from the comprehensive menu of tools, informational resources, and reflection questions in the planning guide as they coach district leaders to use a data-informed approach to identifying and addressing social-emotional wellness needs in their schools. The guide empowers IU SEW leads to work systematically with districts to identify their needs, their capacity to address those needs, and the evidence-based programs that best fit their context.

Continue reading on the REL Mid-Atlantic blog.

About the Authors

Scott Kuren

Scott Kuren

Director, Office for Safe Schools, Pennsylvania Department of Education
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