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In an effort to learn more about the 2021 Salida School Board candidates, Ark Valley Voice (AVV) compiled a third set of questions that were distributed to each candidate. The answers to the first candidate question ran on Wednesday. and yesterday AVV ran the second question on financial acumen. This is the third in the series of questions to reveal candidate positions on issues important to student success.

All candidates were given the same amount of time to complete the questions, as well as the same word count for their responses. Six of the eight candidates responded.

The third question asked by AVV ; “If elected or re-elected, what would you suggest the district do to continue to support student, teacher, and staff mental health?”

Jennifer Adamson’s Answer:

“Mental health is a priority. Plenty of knowledgeable counselors, recovery, alcoholic and Drug Rehab Counselors, and suicide watch 24 hours a day. Provide phone numbers. Available is a must. Parents must know immediately what’s going on at school and law enforcement must to be included always. They are trained to protect and serve our schools and community.”

Jeannie Peters Answers:

“The district currently has a counselor at every school. We have access to a Chaffee County Department of Human Services social worker to facilitate social services for our students. We have a full-time counselor from Solvista [Health] at the high school. These positions need to be maintained and augmented if a greater need is documented.”

“The district has effective social and emotional learning curriculums in place at the Early Childhood Center, Longfellow Elementary, Crest Academy, Salida Middle School, and Horizons Exploratory Academy. We are struggling to find the right curriculum or program for Salida High School, but believe that Principal Trujillo will be successful in finding the right match for that age students.”

“All these programs are needed to support the mental health of our students, our teachers, and our staff.  I also believe that creating a culture of kindness, clear communication, clear expectations, appreciation and inclusion is essential to maintaining a healthy, invigorated, and innovative work environment.”

Joe Smith’s Answer:

“If re-elected to the Board, I believe the District should continue to develop relationships with key partners like Solvista [Health], DHS, HRRMC, CMC, and others to support students and staff with not only their mental health, but overall health. We know that we cannot meet all the needs of our community and community members without the help of our key partners. We have worked with these partners to add support services and staffing to the district as mental health is a priority of the Board. I will continue to encourage all of our community partnerships be enhanced, improved, and continuously evaluated for improvements to continue to meet the growing needs of our community, staff, and students.”

Carrie Coscarella-Mattix’s Answer:

“Mental health has never been more needed than it is right now. I have been working with the Salida High School Administration and Solvista [Health] on how we can effectively use our partnership for the support for students and staff. Mental health should no longer have a stigma to it. We all should make time for self-care every day. Thinking is clearer, stress is reduced, anxiety is lessened, and the ability to listen is improved and the bandwidth to do what needs to be done is greater.”

Jodi Breckenridge Petit’s Answer:

“These four semesters have been extraordinarily trying.  The best thing the school board can do for mental health is to continue in-person instruction—it is the most effective support to learning, predictability, and emotional support for all. Additionally, our Solvista [Health] social worker/emotional counselor was on-boarded October 15th and will be in Salida High School full-time to support our students!  Huge.”

Mandy Paschall’s Answer:

“The first step is to look at our mental health needs and assess if we have sufficient staffing to meet the current needs. From talking with staff, I believe we need to increase the number of counselors at the middle school and high school level. Our counselors are managing special education plans, students’ class schedules, assisting with college and career planning, and until recently all mental health concerns. Thankfully, we now have a partnership with Solvista [Health] to provide a full-time mental health counselor at the high school. We should continue to evaluate needs and adjust accordingly with increased services as our budget allows.”

“Ultimately low teacher pay and staff shortages are a national problem, but we should do what we can on a local level to support our staff. We are lucky to have amazing community partners such as Full Circle Restorative Justice and Solvista offering support to our staff. As a board, our focus should be on making sure our staff feels respected and heard and are given trust and autonomy to educate our students. Additionally, we need to ensure there are substitutes so teachers can have planning periods and time off.”