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Clarkston Community School District

From Superintendent Ryan: Let's Go Together!

From Superintendent Ryan: Let's Go Together!

Dear Friends of Clarkston Community Schools,

This week we welcomed former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple for a talk with our students and parents about mental fitness. For those of you, like me, who are old enough to remember, Mr. Hipple's career with the Lions spanned from 1980-1989. In his talk, he showed a video of a particularly brutal hit he endured during a game. (If you care to watch it on YouTube, it is called "The hardest hit a QB has ever taken!" joke!)

The video shows a Tampa Bay linebacker make head-to-head contact with Hipple, sending his helmet flying. As Hipple struggled to maintain consciousness, the broadcasters lauded the tackle as a "clean hit" to the head. Mr. Hipple showed the video to illustrate just how much things have changed since the 80s. We know more today. What once was considered standard operating procedure is no longer safe or acceptable.

Hipple said it's the same with mental well-being. Decades ago, mental health wasn't something we talked about - not because depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues didn't exist, but because there was a stigma associated with talking about these things out in the open. Again, what once was considered standard operating procedure is no longer safe or acceptable. We know more today, and our schools are a great place to start educating students, parents, and staff about managing their own mental fitness.

One of the Four Pillars of our district's strategic plan is Whole Person Development: "we are committed to creating a culture of well-being for all." It's a commitment we don't take lightly. In addition to Eric Hipple's community talk, here are some of the ways we worked on our collective mental fitness as a district this week:

  • Over two days at Clarkston United Methodist Church, nearly 300 Clarkston High School students participated in our fall "Real Talk" event. No cell phones, no outside interruptions, just a full day of real, life-changing human connections that build empathy and social-emotional growth.
  • Our staff received one of their weekly "Well-Being Wednesday" notes from Staci Puzio, the district's director of student growth & well-being. This week's topic was on self-affirmations. (Try it!)
  • During Wolf Time on Wednesday, CHS students were encouraged to deliberately impact the world positively with their Words, Actions, and Smiles" in any way they chose. Some students wrote uplifting messages on pumpkins and lined the entrance to CHS with positivity!
  • Lastly, Wolf Time at SMS is now called "PAWS." Our sixth and seventh graders now meet daily in small groups for a "pause" in the school day and work on targeted topics that affect their social-emotional well-being. The student and staff response to our daily PAWS meetings has been outstanding!

I am constantly thinking about what we're doing for our staff, students, and families, and how we can do more. We're not perfect, but we're getting better every day when it comes to supporting mental well-being. Physical health, relationships, routines, predictability, a sense of control...these are all important in growing a stronger community.

There is an African proverb that says, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." This important work takes time, but I truly believe we are better together and getting stronger every day. Let's go together!

Have a great weekend,

Shawn Ryan
Superintendent of Schools

About Clarkston Community Schools: Clarkston is a highly regarded school district with an enrollment of nearly 7,100 students. We have seven elementary schools (K-5), one middle school serving grades 6-7, one junior high for grades 8-9, and Clarkston High School, which serves students in grades 10-12. We also have an Early Childhood Center serving children ages 3-5, and an alternative high school/community education facility. Clarkston Community Schools students are well-prepared for a future that excites them, and believe that they can achieve their dreams. The mission of Clarkston Community Schools is to create a learning environment where students, staff, and families are challenged, healthy, engaged, safe, and supported.

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Media Contact: Mary Ellen Rowe, Marketing Director (248) 623-5460.