(MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ) — Middlesex County, in partnership with the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey, hosted the Educators’ Summit on Student Mental Health on Thursday, September 30 to address the challenges of social and emotional wellbeing faced by primary, secondary, and postsecondary students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The panel shared insights into how the pandemic is impacting children and young adults and discussed findings from a survey of educators across school districts and charter schools in Middlesex County conducted in May by the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey and the Office of the Middlesex County Superintendent of Schools. A link to a recording of the event can be found here.
Senator Joseph Vitale, Director of Middlesex County Commissioners Director Ronald G. Rios, County Commissioner Chanelle Scott McCullum, and Superintendent Mark Finkelstein of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey, served as guest speakers. Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone served as moderator and panelists included: Lakeasha Carter, MPA, Middlesex County Department of Community Services; Kyle Anderson, Middlesex County Executive County Superintendent; Scott Feder, South Brunswick Public Schools Superintendent; George Scott, State Coordinator, Traumatic Loss Coalition; David Irizarry, Chief of Police, Borough of Metuchen; Lois Yukna, Middlesex County Education Association; and Frank A. Ghinassi, PhD, ABPP, President and CEO, Rutgers Health University, Behavioral Health Care Senior Vice President, Behavioral Health and Addictions Service Line, RWJBarnabas Health.
“The past 18 months have been challenging for all of us, but especially for students and educators. On behalf of the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners, I’m thankful to everyone who took part and participated in this very important discussion,” said Board of County Commissioners Director Ronald G. Rios. “We understand that these issues are complex, and that the best solutions will be born of collaborative efforts involving our entire community.”
“As chair of the County’s Business Innovation, Education, and Opportunity Committee, I have the privilege of working with our County’s educators and seeing firsthand the incredible work they do. I am continually impressed by their efforts and dedication – particularly as we continue to deal with the worst public health crisis our country has seen in a century,” said County Commissioner Chanelle Scott McCullum. “The loss of social and emotional skills is as important as, if not more important than, academic learning loss as students return to in-person classes. Fortunately, we know that our school leaders are already focused on finding and creating solutions.”
Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info
“Following almost two years of distance learning, we are now seeing the broad mental health impacts on students as a result of schools being closed, physically distancing guidelines and isolation, and other unexpected changes to students’ lives,” said Superintendent Mark Finkelstein of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey. “Children already coping with mental health conditions have been especially vulnerable to the changes. With the help of Middlesex County leaders, educators, school leaders and parents, we hope to better address and support our students’ emotional and psychological needs throughout the ongoing pandemic.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to students, educators, and parents. From high levels of anxiety, depression, and burnout, students already coping with mental health conditions have been especially vulnerable,” said Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone. “Addressing COVID-19 related trauma and mental health issues will take more than mental health services, which is why we’ve convened a panel of experts in education, law enforcement, health care, and community services to lead us in the right direction.”
In addition to the survey findings, the panel also addressed how each school district is already addressing challenges, including chronic absenteeism, inappropriate student behavior, the potential for violence, and a massive loss of learning for incoming students in the 2021-2022 school year.
To read an op-ed on the findings written by Middlesex County Commissioner McCullum, Middlesex County Prosecutor Ciccone, and Superintendent of Schools at Educational Services Commission of New Jersey Finkelstein, click here.
Middlesex County is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies, three universities, 19 park systems, and world-class healthcare and research facilities making it one of the nation’s most dynamic regions and a leader in technology, transportation, the arts, and food innovation. As one of the most diverse populations in the country, Middlesex County is home to over 832,000 residents living throughout 25 municipalities. Ranked #1 in the state for best schools, the County offers an award-winning vocational school system, a county college, and workforce development creating a unique ecosystem in which opportunities abound. Conveniently located between New York and Philadelphia, Middlesex County is a leading destination for businesses and residents alike to live, work, and play – and has been since the 17th century.