Weekly Feature

2018-11-07 / Front Page

Innovation Contest finalists present proposals for KTSD

by ALAN RIZZO Editor

A group of five finalists presented their plans to improve the Ken-Ton School District to a seven-member panel of stakeholders last week, the culmination of the district’s first Innovation Contest.

Ranging from instituting a districtwide practice of thoughtful contemplation to creating a technology coach for parents, the proposals all addressed some aspect of mental health or behavioral concerns, including a suggestion to have students channel arguments into a debate society that would be for all students in fourth through 12th grades.

Retired physician and district resident Dr. Yashodhara Satchidanand, who proposed the debate society, said she felt the opportunity for all students to politely debate does not exist in the district and is important for students to get out their frustrations and learn how to effectively communicate.

“If that isn’t done in a school setting for communication, we have lost them,” she said.

Dr. Satchidanand said the society could encompass virtually any school subject and associated faculty, and would greatly improve students’ ability to research, think critically, listen to and accept opposing viewpoints, and organize their thoughts in order to present them to an audience.

“There is nothing more important than communication, and we all know it, especially with social media running rampant,” she said.

Michele Melligan, a school counselor at Franklin Elementary, proposed expanding Franklin’s mindful minutes pilot program to all schools in the district, arguing that taking a minute out of a hectic schedule to contemplate the day ahead can be life-changing for children and adults.

“We’re not taking the time to breathe,” Melligan said, referring to faculty, staff, students, parents and others in the district community. “We wouldn’t say that we didn’t have the time in the day to fill up our gas tank in our car, or we wouldn’t get anywhere; we wouldn’t be able to come to work. So to say that we can’t take a minute out of our day for our own mental health? Shame on us.”

Other proposals included a technology coach for parents presented by Kenmore West High School art teacher David Rogalski, who argued that the district should use online courses, expert resources and a dedicated staff member to help parents improve their parenting skills in areas such as controlling smartphone and social media use.

District parent Antara Satchidanand proposed creating a districtwide tolerance building program, which would help students learn how to more consciously manage their reactions to people and behaviors that are unfamiliar and help them find “the joy in what’s different.”

Seventh-grade student Sriya Natarajan proposed creating a mental health and ethics class to allow middle school students to learn about mental health free of personal bias from teachers. The class would cover topics including problem solving and practical approaches, and compassion, sympathy and respect for human emotions.

Panel member Andrew Gianni, creator of the contest and vice president of the district’s Board of Education, said the panel was to have a winning proposal selected by early this week, which will be worked into the district’s budget planning process. As of press time, the winner had not been announced.

To see more information on the finalists’ proposals, visit https://www.ktufsd.org/innovation.

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