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School Board talks student mental health at board meeting

Fayette County School Corporation Assistant Superintendent Kim Corsaro presented the Fayette County School Board with four years worth of discipline date for the district, so the board could discuss it’s results.

The data Corsaro presented focused on exclusionary discipline (taking students out of the classroom through in-school or out of school suspension)

The data showed that while dipping during the year the COVID-19 pandemic started and the following year, the number of suspensions in the high school remained relatively level.

There was however a more drastic increase of out of school suspensions in the middle and elementary school levels in the past few years. In the last pre-pandemic year (2018-19) there were 57 combined out of school suspensions across the middle and all elementary schools. In 2021-22 school year there was a combined 278.

10-day suspensions pending expulsions doubled from the last pre-pandemic year to this year, from eight to 16 in the middle school, and from 10 to 21 at the high school.

Corsaro’s data from February also presented the number of counselor referrals by grade for the year. The stats showed that most referrals went to younger students. Over 39 percent of the total referrals for the year went to fourth through sixth graders. The leading cause for the topic of meetings had to do with behavioral issues, and were roughly 59 percent for boys and 41 percent for girls.

“What I’m trying to show you with this data is, we all are famillar with our students have large achievement gaps,” Corsaro said. “This between the excluding them from the instructional process and with COVID-19 both have made it very difficult for our teachers to close those instructional gaps.”

Corsaro presented conclusions for this data, after the discussion with her admin teams.

“We are still operating on “no tolerance” that was introduced in the late 90’s early 2000’s where it didn’t matter if the kid did something, they were automatically out of school,” Corsaro said. “That changed a little when SEL (social emotional learning) came in place. Still we use sticks and carrots. Meaning we try to incentivize something for them to behave, or when they don’t we go to the punitive out of school suspensions or the in school suspensions.”

Corsaro said this is pushing too many kids out of the classroom, so much that they are being pushed towards dropping out.

Corsaro said that mental health, especially in a post pandemic world, still continues to be an issue for students.

Corsaro said the current system in place is not preventing mental health related counseling referrals, this means there is a need to look at new options.

“The needs are not going down,” Corsaro said. “Our mental health needs of not only our students but our adults and our parents are increasing. Our discipline rates are going up and our achievement rates are going down, so we’ve got to figure out where do we go from here based on what resources we have.”

As for where to go from here, Corsaro did offer a few steps. The first of which is making sure to take advantage of ESSER funds to build systems that can remain in place even after ESSER money is spent.

Corsaro shared that she and her admin team would like to see a transition from “no tolerance” towards more restorative practices. Corsaro addressed the concerns of a lack of discipline.

“This is not saying there will be no suspensions and there is no discipline,” Corsaro said. “This is saying that we look at other alternatives as well as those alternatives. (…) I don’t want the perception to be that we are getting rid of discipline because that is not it.”

Restorative practices would take a whole-school approach, meaning staff, teachers administrators and students would either be exposed to or trained in these restorative practices.

The focus would be shifted from giving punishments for breaking rules instead towards causes of student behavior, their needs and the harm their behavior is causing, as well as disciplining bad behavior.

Corsaro said for this to be successful they need to start at a younger age, likely grade school, with these practices as it is harder to target a junior or senior in high school and make a marked change in just a single year.

Kelly Pflum will be taking over as the Director of Alternative Education. Her as well as Corsaro and her team have already identified 20 families of students in the eighth grade at risk of not advancing to high school next year and started opening communication with the students and families.

Corsaro said this would ultimately branch further down to sixth grade eventually as well.

There would also eventually be a Restorative Facilitator who would work at the elementary level.

School Board President Leslie Jacobs said the data on behavior was hard to look at, and that behavior is typically driven by emotion.

“I think it would be hard to identify that somebody has a behavior issue and there is an underlying depression,” Jacobs said. “Most adolescents will not tell you they’re depressed.”

Jacobs said that as a social worker, she finds it disturbing to see these rising mental health issues among students not only in FCSC, but across the country. Jacobs said she is glad to see the “no tolerance” punitive approach being phased out.

“I think the part that bothers me the most, isn’t where we’re going, its this punitive approach that doesn’t work,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs asked if the students are ever polled to see what would help them to feel less, anxious or angry. Corsaro said the answer they usually get from students with high referral rates illustrates the importance of staff building relationships with the students.

“What we hear from kids mostly is the adults in the building don’t care about me or the teacher doesn’t even want to be here,” Corsaro said. “That goes back to those relationships children have with adults.”

Board member Ann Kirschner said that she thinks there are likely parents that had bad experiences in schools when they were younger, and schools less “user friendly” than today. That could enforce a negative perception of schools.

“I remember having to read the rules every year on the first day of school and it was ridiculous,” Kirschner said. “It was like ‘Okay here are the articles of war guys’ it was so punitive. I think we’re trying to come out of that, but that framework doesn’t work with the kids we have today, and I’m not sure it worked well [then]. There will be some people saying we don’t have discipline anymore. Yeah we do, we just have to do it differently, because you parent differently, these kids were brought up differently. Unless we’re adaptable we’re going to lose. We lost too many parents when they were kids by not being able to adapt to their needs.”

Kirschner said the schools have to change their culture in order to rebuild trust with parents disenfranchised by their own negative experience.

Corsaro said she will continue to provide updates as there are more developments in the program or statistics.

Every Monday this summer Fayette, Wayne and Randolph County Extension Educators are working together to provide programming for the Summer Fun program in Cambridge City. Monday, children learned about birds and made pine cone bird feeders, learned about vegetables (tops, middles or bottoms) and herbs and made seed balls and had a healthy snack.

Summer learning

Local Briefs

Communities that Care hosting Summer Cookout

Join the Communities That Care Youth Coalition Summer Cookout to help our community find local solutions to local problems, and get a meal while you are at it!

Our current project is to support Fayette County youth in educating the community about Positive Childhood Experiences and Protective Factors, and we are doing that through the arts!

Over the past few months we have been learning about positive childhood experiences and writing/recording songs that we will be sharing with the community. These songs are designed help us find local solutions to local problems by offering insight into how we as a community can work together to increase positive childhood experiences, strengthen protective factors, and create a lasting positive impact in Fayette County.

Ages 10 – 17 are welcome as we work to build our local youth coalition focused on using the arts to create educational opportunities for the community.

These events are free of charge and made possible by federal funding from the Drug Free Community Grant program. Learn more at

– Information provided

Concerts upcoming at the Roberts Park Pavilion

Interested in some free music at the park? Well Connersville is just the place. There are two upcoming concerts at the Roberts Park Pavilion and each of the concerts will be free.

The first is scheduled for June 27 when the Crossroads Brass Band pays a visit. This will be the bands first full year under director Jon Noworyta. after a successful concert last year the band is hoping for a similar turnout this year. The show will begin at 7 p.m.

The second upcoming concert, scheduled for July 16 also at 7 p.m. will see the Shelby Community Band coming to town. The band will bring their volunteer crew and unique sound to the park pavilion.

Youth Football Signups

To all kids in Fayette county. If you will be in grades K through 6th this fall, registration will be on the next three Saturdays. June 18 and 25, and July 2. Between 11AM and 2 PM. Location is Grandview’s football field.

Online signups are also available. The link to sign up on line can be accessed through the Connersville Youth Football Facebook page.

Harrisburg/Fayette Central alumni reunion June 25

Anyone that went to Harrisburg, Fairview, Orange, or Fayette Central is invited to the Harrisburg/Fayette Central reunion on June 25. It will begin at noon on Kenny Pflum’s farm on 7832 N Co. Road 350 W.

Meat and plasticware will be provided, attendees are asked to bring a dish of their own as well as drinks. Any questions can be directed to Shirley Champe at (765) 825-6487

– Information provided

Fayette County Soil and Water looking for volunteers

On July 23 starting at 8 a.m. Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District will be sponsoring a Whitewater River Cleanup day.

Meeting point will be at Robinson’s Campground at Whitewater River Adventures. All river transportation will be provided from there. kayaks and tubes will be provided for all volunteers, or they can bring their own canoe.

Drinks will be provided throughout the day, and after returning to shore there will be a cookout at noon as a thank you to the volunteers who help clean up. Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District asks volunteers to wear closed-toe shoes and to be prepared to get wet.

– Information provided

Cameron hired as Director of Early Childhood Education

The Fayette County School Board approved Mallory Cameron as the new Director of Early Childhood Education at their most recent school board meeting.

Cameron should be a relatively familiar face and name for families in the area, especially those who have had children go through either Grandview or Eastview Elementary schools. Cameron has spent seven of her ten years in education at those schools, she most recently served as the principal of Starr Elementary School in Richmond for the last three years.

Cameron did undergraduate work at Miami University of Ohio before earning a Master’s in Educational Administration and Supervision, as well as studying Gifted and Talented Education at Ball State University.

Cameron is a 2008 graduate from Connersville and said she was looking forward to returning back home. The decision to go into education was an easy decision for Cameron, who said that she realized she wanted to get into field at a young age.

“I think I’ve known since I was younger,” Cameron said. “I used to always play school. I had a lot of great teachers growing up, so that really drove me in that direction.”

Cameron said that when she got to do field placements at different schools while in college and as a 4H member, she had the chance to work with younger students and that was when she new education was her calling.

In addition there were a few things that made this role appealing.

“I’ve always had a passion for early childhood and helping students create that strong foundation for them to be successful throughout their schooling experience,” Cameron said.

Coming back home is the most exciting part of the new role.

“I get to come home and serve the families and our community and be a part of the community,” Cameron said. “That’s something that I’m really excited about.”

Cameron will be taking over for Kelly Pflum, who has spent the last four years leading Little Spartans Preschool in the Director of Early Childhood Education role. Pflum will be taking on a new assignment within the district, serving as the new Director of Alternative Learning. Pflum left a message on Little Spartans Preschool social media introducing Cameron and announcing her new role in the district.

“Over the last four years I’ve poured my heart into building our early learning center and have loved getting to know your families and helping your children grow,” Pflum said in the post. “Next school year I will begin a new adventure in the school corporation as Director of Alternative Learning. I’m excited for the opportunity and thankful for my years at Little Spartans! As Mallory makes the transition into her new role, I will be here to support her and you along the way.”

Cameron said as she takes this new role, there are a few things that the parents of children who will be coming through Little Spartans Preschool should know.

“Know that myself and our staff are going to love their children and keep them safe and give them the best education possible,” Cameron said.

As for goals, Cameron said the first one is to build relationships with families and supporters to get community buy in for the students. Cameron has a plan to begin to build said relationships.

“I’m hoping to do a lot of family nights and lot of positive phone calls home,” Cameron said. “I’m hoping to be really engaged in everything that happens within Little Spartans Preschool and be a part of that, and let families know I’m here to support them and their children.”

Cameron had one final message to the community.

“I’m really excited to be able to serve the community that helped raised me, and that I grew up in.”