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By Terry Pickeral, Project UNIFY Senior Education Consultant

I recently co-facilitated a webinar sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) titled Social Inclusion: An Opportunity for Principal Leadership.

My co-facilitators included Steven Bebee, principal Cactus Shadows High School (AZ), Bill Schreiber, principal Granite Falls Middle School (NC) and Barbara Oswald, Special Olympics South Carolina.

It was a privilege to share and learn from these local and national leaders on how principals lead their schools to integrate and sustain social inclusion.

While US schools understand physical inclusion (ensuring all students have equitable access to facilities, services and activities) and academic inclusion (engaging diverse students in the teaching-learning process of the general education classroom) there is less familiarity with social inclusion ...

Cory Notestine is the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) 2015 School Counselor of the Year. He worked in Guilford County Schools (NC) at T. Wingate Andrews High School before moving to Colorado, where he currently serves as a counselor at Alamosa High School. Notestine's efforts have resulted in higher college going rates and increased opportunities for students to partake in community college and university courses while still in high school.

Notestine was kind enough to take time to discuss his work and the school counseling program at Alamosa High School in greater depth. He highlighted the importance of the ASCA National Model in guiding the creation of the school's comprehensive counseling program, one that both holds counselors accountable and shows the impact of their work for the students they serve. Notestine also presented his priorities for the next year, when he will be serving as a national spokesman for his profession and his colleagues nationwide.
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In 2014, the Learning First Alliance conducted a number of interviews with leading education professionals. Many of these individuals are considered exemplar leaders in our coalition membership. The five listed below are the most viewed of the interviews that we conducted in 2014 and include a PDK Emerging Leader, a former President from AASA: The Superintendents’ Association and the National PTA President. While all but one of our top interviews this year focus on Common Core, we conduct interviews on a broad range of topics, highlighting leadership and best practices in public education.

We would like to thank our members for helping us connect with these individuals, and we thank all of our interviewees for taking time to share their insights and knowledge with our audience.

Happy New Year!

5. California Teachers Talk: Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr on the Common Core

As part of our Get It Right campaign on Common Core implementation, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr, who is in his 10th year as an educator and was a 2013 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. Gutiérrez began his career ...

By Libby Nealis, Senior Program Coordinator, Behavioral and Mental Health, NEA Health Information Network

NEA’s Great Public Schools (GPS) Network recognized the week of December 7-13 as Mental Health Awareness Week.  Resources, discussions and webinars have been shared among members of the Student Bullying Group to examine issues around bullying and suicide prevention and recent federal guidance regarding bullying and students with disabilities

NEA HIN wants to contribute by sharing some facts about children’s mental health and the roles that school can play to address the needs of students with mental health disorders and to prevent and guard against the developmental and environmental stressors that can exacerbate symptoms of poor mental health and lead to more negative outcomes.  ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

Robin Williams’ death by suicide in August could be the best thing that’s happened for mental health awareness in years.

Yes, we lost a comic genius who made us laugh so hard that our bellies ached. But his singular act — and, more to the point, his family’s generosity in acknowledging the truth of his death with the public — focused much needed attention on the anguish of depression and the reality that suicide too often accompanies the darkness that characterizes the disease.

How many times have you known someone or the spouse, child, or sibling of someone who committed suicide? How often have you talked about that event in the hushed tones of embarrassment? How often have the leaders in your schools been directed to avoid being specific about how a student or staff members died when the cause of death was suicide? ...

By Annelise Cohon, NEA Health Information Network

Since 2010, the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom have been ensuring more learning-ready students thanks to an innovative school breakfast model.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” However, how many of us forget to make breakfast a priority and walk out the door without eating anything? I’ll admit I’m guilty of not following my own advice and occasionally missing breakfast. However, for many adults and children missing breakfast can negatively impact their entire day. It has also been well-documented that for students, missing breakfast consistently over time can lead to poorer health outcomes and learning issues. Students who miss breakfast perform lower on standardized tests, are not able to concentrate as well, and are more likely to make frequent trips to the school nurse, missing valuable class time. ...

By Tom Ledcke, Special Education Teacher, Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington

The challenge of inclusion for students with disabilities has been an ongoing conversation in education. For students in my high school, inclusion has primarily meant physical inclusion only -- students with disabilities attended general education classes with typical peers. However, during lunch and after school they were usually alone and isolated from the usual social experiences that their typical peers enjoyed. My students practiced social fluency skills like eye contact and small talk in the classroom, but they never had the chance to put these skills into action by making true friendships. Participating in team sports or landing a part in the school play was only a dream. While I don't think it was ever out of malice or hatred, ignorance towards the students with intellectual disabilities ensured my students were left out of things and never integrated into the fabric of our school community -- and like any other student who feels isolated or alone, my students could feel that they were "outsiders." ...

By Libby Nealis, Consultant on Classroom Behavioral Management, NEA HIN

Continuing its commitment to preventing and reducing bullying in our nations’ schools, the National Education Association (NEA) offers a number of resources for educators to promote awareness of bullying behaviors among students and prevent bullying behavior. For example, NEA’s GPS Network includes a Student Bullying group that offers a forum for educators to express concerns and share resources and best practices. This month they featured two webinars

NEA HIN also provides resources on cyberbullying and the prevention and intervention services that can address both the causes and the effect of bullying. This includes positive behavioral supports and social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. These kinds of school-wide programs can also have a tremendous effect on bullying. Much can be achieved simply by teaching students compassion ...

By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

A poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association last month concluded that a majority of parents agree with strong federal nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.

These parents are in favor of sound nutrition for their children. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) agrees with them. All school board members -- and nearly 40 percent are parents of school-age children -- understand the critical importance of student health.

That is why NSBA supports flexibility that would allow communities to feed their students healthy food that also reflects school districts' unique needs, resources, and circumstances. Using sound nutrition as a base and their communities as partners, districts can serve healthy food that students will eat ...

By Jill Cook, Assistant Director, American School Counselor Association

Most parents think their children are exceptional. My oldest daughter, Kate, is doubly so.

Considered intellectually gifted, she also has ADHD, anxiety and bipolar disorder, a triple whammy that has impeded her ability to reach her full academic potential and has left her vulnerable to severe depression as well as intense periods of mania.

Throughout Kate’s school career, my husband and I have sought to be her biggest advocate and source of support. With each transition – grade to grade, elementary to middle to high school – we have communicated with her teachers, school counselors and other student support staff about the academic and emotional challenges she faces. ...

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