Leslie Carson says she has a sure cure for what ails the Central Bucks School District.
Want to improve already impressive test scores? Want to reduce absenteeism among students and employees? Want to cut healthcare costs? Want to ease stress, increase focus, and promote positive behaviors?
The answer, Carson told the CB School Board Tuesday night, is to get behind a comprehensive wellness program for students, teachers and staff members.
”It will take leadership and dedication to the subject,” said Carson. “I can’t make it happen...I’m just a mom. We need (new superintendent) Dr. (Rod) Green and the school board to put a measurable plan into effect.”
Green, a fitness buff who recently completed his first marathon at age 56, said the district already has wellness committees in all schools. Carson is preaching to the choir, he said.
“We are all interested in wellness,” said Green. “We want wellness for our staff and our students. It can have a very positive effect by itself.”
Carson said the key is an integrated program that includes food, movement, and stress reduction that is implemented at every grade level. She agreed that some schools are doing a good job when it comes to promoting wellness.
“But we need the schools to communicate with each other,” she said. “No one knows what they others are doing.”
Recent changes in the National School Lunch program, which emphasize more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fewer trans-fats, is a good start. But she said the district has to look at every single food item that is made available in cafeterias.
Last spring, Carson said, she presented the district with a petition asking for a complete review of food choices. She presented the same petition to Green at a recent meeting, but has not gotten a formal response.
“Anything that is provided in the school environment provide should be closer to whole foods, more nutritious, less processed, less sugar,” she said.
Carson, who calls wellness “my passion,” said a simple change with positive benefits would be to let elementary school children have recess before they take lunch. That way they would be more relaxed after running around and more focused on eating a complete, healthy meal rather than looking forward to getting outside to play.
Carson said she would like to see popular elementary movement programs such as “Jump Rope Club” and “I Run for Life” extended to secondary school students who might not be involved in organized athletics.
For stress reduction, she’d like to see a mindfulness program implemented by Todd Cantrell at the high school that allows students to close their eyes “and just be for a little while” extended right down to first graders.
Carson said she has been a member of the district’s Wellness Committee and has seen some progress. But she said nothing is being measured, and useful information is not being shared among schools.
“Some individuals are doing great things,” she said. “But it’s not going to a big effect districtwide if it’s just happening in one classroom or one school. It has to come from the top.”
Carson, who said she has been prodding the district for seven years to make wellness a priority, said she is willing to give Green some time to take action on her request.
“I’m not judging him yet,” said Carson. “He’s under enormous pressure and has a lot on his plate right now. It might take some time.”
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