Cougar Connection Day celebrates outstanding support for students
North Star School District staff were recognized at Cougar Connection Day, a day of appreciation at the high school, thanking them for their “frontline” efforts to help the district’s students maintain in-person classes through the challenges of a pandemic-centered academic year. Bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodial and administrative staff, teachers and coaches for the district’s schools were treated to a luncheon at the athletic field, along with T-shirts, prizes and the opportunity to socialize and celebrate the collective achievement. Donations from local businesses paid for the day’s activities.
Superintendent Louis Lepley mentioned that each day individual contributions of staff provided stability and security that many of their students do not receive when they’re not in school. “Every day, you are frontline workers,” he said. “It starts with our bus drivers. That first interaction in the morning sets the tone for that student when they get to school. It continues through the lunch line — those interactions that our students have with our cafeteria workers is fantastic. Our custodial, maintenance (staff) in the hallways, is fantastic. That helps those students through the day. Those positive interactions mean the world to our students, because not all of them get that kind of interaction at home. Again, that’s part of the reality for some of our students.”
The event was organized by the district’s Catalyst Action Team (CAT) which was created at the start of the school year. The district created the CAT as part of a multiyear plan to train staff at the elementary, middle and high school levels in the Trauma Skilled Schools model, created by the National Dropout Prevention Center to decrease student dropouts and negative behavior in school that is related to stress and trauma that children are most likely experiencing. Locally, Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 is partnering with the National Dropout Prevention Center to provide this training.
A group of staff from each building — elementary, middle and high school — were trained in the Trauma Skilled Schools model this year, said Suzie St. Clair, the district’s director of special education and CAT team leader. Starting next fall the training is to be provided to all staff in the high school, followed in subsequent years with training for staff in the middle and elementary schools.