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Dr. KC Somers, Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Superintendent.

I’m grateful to be superintendent of a district with such strong community activism that takes pride in working together to support the very best for our students. Recently, I’ve heard some community conversation and feedback around the topic of Social Emotional Learning, and want to add some additional perspective.

To open this conversation, let’s take a moment to talk about our approach to education in terms of the whole-child. A whole-child approach to education goes beyond a singular focus on academic achievement and involves a broader view of how a student grows and develops skills and capacities within social, emotional, physical and cognitive domains. Whole-child development also involves character education and provides opportunities for students to learn more about themselves in relationship to one another and to the broader community.

Adding to this concept, we must consider the additional stressors on children today given our ever-changing online world. Social Emotional Learning encompasses a facet of understanding both interpersonal dynamics, as well as online challenges, such as reputation, online bullying and more.

In D38, we incorporate a variety of evidence-based resources and strategies to help students experience a sense of belonging and connectedness in our schools. One example is through the Capturing Kids Hearts curriculum, which emphasizes the role of cultivating relationships among teachers and students, improving school culture and building self-management skills and classroom accountability structures through the use of a social contract.

Other schools use the Responsive Classroom program, which leverages a student-centered approach to teaching and discipline. Contrary to some critique, these initiatives do not take time away from classroom instruction, but rather enhance the learning experience and support improved academic outcomes. A prevalence of research shows these approaches ultimately help our students develop skills to become future-ready and caring contributors to the broader community.

Our community, too, backed the need for additional resources in this area, overwhelmingly supporting the use of grant dollars through the latest round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to be allocated to areas related to Social Emotional Learning and wellness. And it is for these reasons that I write to reinforce why we spend time and effort in the area of Social Emotional Learning and wellness.

Helping our teachers and students with tools to address Social Emotional Learning and wellness means we are developing deep bonds with our students, elevating their ability to learn and function upon graduating from D38 and joining our ranks of successful alumni.

As we continue to roll out our strategic plan, we will continue to emphasize Social Emotional Learning, which directly correlates to our first priority of maintaining safe, healthy and welcoming schools. Each priority of our plan is interwoven, as maintaining our schools in this fashion creates additional means for students to find success, contributing to our second priority of maintaining a world-class education. I look forward to showing the return on investment as we engage in this new strategic approach moving into the future.

Dr. KC Somers is superintendent of Lewis-Palmer School District 38.

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