in Staff Wellness

Karen DeOrian

Madera Unified Sparks Initiatives for Adult Mental and Physical Wellness

By Karen DeOrian, Director of School Culture and Climate

At about six months into the pandemic, Madera Unified embarked on a novel initiative: supporting adult mental and physical wellness. Dr. Rebecca Malmo, former Director of Student and Family Support Services, began discussions with the Cowell Foundation on the recommendation of our United Way partner, Lindsey Fox-Callahan, CEO of the United Way Fresno/Madera Chapters. In Sept. 2020, MUSD’s Governing Board approved the application to provide support for staff. Because healthy, well-adjusted adults are better equipped to meet the needs of the students. The grant was accepted and awarded in early Oct. 2020 by the Cowell Foundation.

The first grant activity was to survey staff and students on perceptions of their own well-being. MUSD selected Panorama Education to administer this survey, as this is a long-time partner who facilitates our School Climate survey each spring. 1,475 of the district’s 2,227 employees responded to the survey, with 86% of those responding from school sites and 14% from district-office departments. This survey revealed employees had a 60% favorable rating on their wellness, putting our district in about the 40th percentile nationally. At that time, classified staff reported a 71% favorable rating and 54% of the certificated staff reported their satisfaction in their job.

The Department of Student and Family Supports Service next contracted with Jennifer Johnson, LCSW of CSU Stanislaus, to develop a Self-Compassion video. Site principals and district leaders were trained to facilitate the video screening with staff, which took place in Dec. 2020. Individual bags of popcorn were also provided district-wide.

The Self-Care video survey conducted at the end of this activity with 95% of staff responded with a 4 or 5 that watching the video a good investment of their time and 85.8% of staff responded with a 4 or 5 that their “toolkit” of self-care practices expanded. 95.3% of staff responded they would like to have more opportunities to learn about and practice self-care in the workplace.

In May and June 2021, the Department of Health and Wellness hosted virtual and in-person mindfulness practices with Sharon Whitefawn of Whitefawn Wellness, providing sessions on Crystal Bowl Sound Therapy, Yoga Class with Sound Vibration Meditation, and Mindfulness 101. 159 MUSD staff attended at least one of the seven sessions.

Spring 2021 concluded with all staff receiving a water bottle with leaders trained again to facilitate a staff presentation of MUSD’s We Believe in Staff Wellness initiative and future course opportunities around adult self-care. District leadership also took a budget proposal to our governing board that summer to incentivize staff participation. MUSD’s 2021 LCAP Goal 5, Action 8, was budgeted for 6 million dollars and any district staff completing wellness courses in the 2021/22 school year will receive a $300 incentive for each course.

The course offering can be found at the district’s professional learning platform: Canvas at https://learn.maderausd.org/, under the We Believe in Staff Wellness catalog. The first class that opened was Self-Care Planner, focusing on the self-care practice of journaling throughout the school year. Next, Nutrition opened in October with CSU Fresno Dietetic Interns, providing healthy, monthly lessons and cooking demonstrations. Mindfulness Practice also began in October with eight self-paced videos prepared especially for MUSD Staff by Sharon Whitefawn. In January, Adult Social Emotional Learning (SEL) opened with five sessions on self-care provided by The Teaching Well. There are currently 484 staff members participating in at least one class.

Providing wellness opportunities for employees is not a novel idea. Many organizations offer fitness programs or space, challenges or classes. MUSD’s Governing Board has taken this a step further with the LCAP incentive funding. Our district leadership and board BELIEVE in caring for those who care for our children.

We Believe in Staff Wellness Courses
Self-Care Planner (journaling)229Course ends May 31, 2022
Nutrition140Course ends May 31, 2022
Mindfulness Practices104(8 self-paced videos-17 staff have completed)
Adult Social Emotional Learning (SEL) 11Completion of any one cohort: Cohort 1 (1/26/2022-2/23/2022) Cohort 2 (3/02/2022-3/30/2022) Cohort 3 (4/06/2022-5/04/2022) Cohort 4 (5/11/2022-6/08/2022)
Total Enrollment:484

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