Hollister District’s new Social-Emotional Team offers new services for students

Anxiety, socialization skills among top concerns on campus

Members of the district’s newly developed Social-Emotional Team had the opportunity recently to highlight the group’s activities so far in 2021-22 to the Hollister School District Board of Trustees. 

Assistant Superintendent Kip Ward introduced the S.E. Team members who spoke at the board meeting. They included Mental Health Therapist Adina Austin, School Social Worker Eliana Delgadillo and School Counselor Daniel Romero. 

This is the first year with a full team addressing a range of social-emotional issues in the district. There are now full-time school counselors, licensed social workers and licensed mental health therapists assigned at district sites. 

Romero noted how team members have been working hard and collaboratively while remaining “really flexible” in addressing various needs. The team members then presented a list of the district’s programming at school sites. Those programs included Student Circles at middle schools that involve a social-emotional trainer, a Parent/Teacher Consultation program, having an S.E. expert at each site, S.E. video presentations for families, six-week support groups at middle schools and elementary schools, a four-week series on socialization skills at elementary schools, Restorative Circles at elementary sites and Pride Time. Additionally, there is a Positive Behavior Intervention System set up at local campuses. 

“Even though we have three different types of roles—we have school counselors, mental health therapists and social workers—we each call ourselves social-emotional experts at the sites. So we are the resource for that site,” Romero said. 

The group of 13 S.E. Team members meet every couple of weeks to discuss issues and trends, the presenters said. 

Delgadillo then moved on to present some important, related numbers for the trustees to underscore the breadth of work being done. Overall, the number of students formally served as of Dec. 10 was 179. As for drop-in services, that number was up to 3,306 in that same period. 

“We are definitely providing those social-emotional services on campuses,” Delgadillo said. 

She also underscored a focus on continued professional development that has included trainings regarding trauma-informed practices, emotional intelligence for administrators, mental health first-aid, restorative justice in education, quality behavior solutions (de-escalation/behavior strategies) and upcoming sessions on restorative practices. She said it’s particularly important to have protocol in order to ensure safety. 

“As you know, sometimes we have situations where we have crisis situations at our sites,” she said. 

Delgadillo added that a crisis can look different for everybody. For instance, when students bring on danger to themselves or others, that’s considered an immediate crisis that comes with a related protocol for responding. The team members emphasized the Hollister School District has implemented a clear set of responses to a crisis that includes trained social emotional experts as first responders.

“Because we have experts at every site, we will be the first responders to assist the school,” Delgadillo said. 

There are four steps in the response: Staff contacts an S.E. Team member. An administrator is notified and contacts parents/guardians. The student remains with the S.E. expert until the parent/guardian arrives, and the S.E. expert documents the incident. 

The team members shared various, positive feedback included in a November survey for administrators, teachers and others.

“I am so thankful to have a trained social-emotional expert on site,” one of the survey respondents noted as displayed in the presentation. “I feel it’s always important but especially so this year. I hope you keep considering them longer than just this year.” 

The S.E. Team members went on to mention trends they are seeing with students, such as symptoms of anxiety and socialization skills. The district will soon release a video, in a series on social-emotional topics, for parents on how to support students at home when there are anxiety symptoms. The district will post those videos on the HSD Youtube page as well. 

After the presentation, trustees had the chance to ask questions or make comments. Trustee Jan Grist asked if there are certain behaviors in certain grades the S.E. Team can anticipate. Delgadillo responded that, for instance, the team has recognized issues with socialization skills in grades 1-3. 

“When we look at our older students,” Delgadillo added, “it’s a lot of anxiety.” 

Trustee Carla Torres-Deluna asked the S.E. Team to send more finite data to Superintendent Erika Sanchez so she can share it with individual board members, and added it’s important to understand the district’s population. 

“You’re essential and you’re much needed,” she said, leading to applause.