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Thriving Schools Honor Roll 2017

Every day in our schools there are ordinary people doing extraordinary work to build a healthier future for the students, staff and teachers. These are the folks, who when faced with obstacles, look beyond them and see possibilities. They are collaborators, caregivers, coaches, instructors, advocates and all-around superstars.

The Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools Honor Roll awards program recognizes those individuals who are championing sustainable, healthy school environments. The program celebrates successes, recognizes innovation and elevates best practices so that we can all be inspired.

This year’s cadre of award winners serve as staff, teachers, youth, parents, school or community leaders, and union leaders who:

  • Engage in promoting healthy school communities for students and staff through strategies such as:
    • Creating school systems and environments that promote and support healthy eating and physical activity
    • Creating school systems and environments that promote and support social and emotional health and wellness
    • Leading policy change to support student and staff wellness
    • Improving school climate
  • Demonstrate vision, creativity and a collaborative spirit in championing sustainable changes at schools
  • Inspire other school community members to take action

Take a tour through the success stories below and join us in celebrating the people who made it to this year’s Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools Honor Roll. We hope you’ll be inspired by them and maybe even catch a glimpse of how you can follow in their footsteps in your school community.

Abby Beytin

Region: Mid-Atlantic States
Title/Role: President
Organization/School District: Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO), Baltimore County Public School District

Call it the ripple effect. Abby Beytin understands that changing the health and well-being of teachers in Baltimore County Public Schools starts with an idea, and then an action, one that eventually ripples out so others can see and feel its effects. In Abby’s case, that initial idea was to use the influence of her position as head of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County to rally teachers and community partners to support the flourishing of a school employee wellness effort in her district.

Abby and TABCO joined forces with Kaiser Permanente to create an innovative funding program for school employee wellness efforts. The program provided mini-grants to schools in Baltimore County to create structural, policy, and practice changes within each school to improve teacher and staff health. Nine schools in Baltimore County received the mini-grants and rolled out a variety of school environment improvements ranging from teacher lounge makeovers to new kitchen equipment that allowed for healthier food preparation and consumption.

Abby was able to leverage her position and influence to support these changes by cultivating wellness champions within her teachers union and engaging them in carrying out the changes made possible by the Kaiser Permanente grants. Her creativity and eagerness to make the effort successful helped make several Baltimore County public school environments healthier for teachers and staff while also serving as a model for how school districts can partner with unions to promote staff wellness.

Joanne Maki

Region: Northwest
Title/Role: Physical Education Specialist, District Wellness Co-Leader
Organization/School District: Ron Russell Middle School, David Douglas School District

“A fierce advocate for wellness.” Those are words that describe Joanne Maki’s tireless efforts to enhance local, district, and state-wide school environments to support health for students.

Where others see challenges, Joanne sees opportunity. She has been a champion for good health throughout her community in a variety of ways: strengthening the quality of physical education curriculum, advocating for professional development opportunities, ensuring that healthy foods are provided at family night celebrations, eliminating candy as a reward for classroom behavior, and serving on state-wide committees for school health efforts.

Joanne continually reminds her school community of why the work of wellness is so important. She knows that the students in her district have limited opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating in their surrounding community. And she motivates her colleagues to do what they can to create healthy environments on their campuses.

In addition to her role as a physical education specialist, Joanne volunteers her time to work with the Oregon state standards committee and the PEAK (Physical Education for All Kids) Coalition to impact PE policy and standards state-wide. She has successfully secured funding for schools that have enabled new PE curriculae and equipment to keep students healthy and active throughout the school day.

Meagan Lutu

Region: Northwest
Title/Role: Physical Education Specialist, District Wellness Co-Leader
Organization/School District: Floyd Light Middle School, David Douglas School District

Health in schools requires that everyone is on board. Meagan Lutu takes that collaborative spirit to heart. Through her role as a health teacher at Floyd Light Middle School, as well as the district co-leader charged with implementing a large Oregon Education Association (OEA) Choice Trust grant for staff and teacher wellness in her district, Meagan is seen as a relentless force for good.

Meagan creatively engages her community to make changes in their school environment, even when those changes seem daunting. She works within her school and district to advocate for student and staff wellness and provide opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity. For example, she has been a relentless advocate for changing the practice of giving candy as a reward for good behavior in school. And as the district’s staff wellness grant coordinator, Meagan has made significant strides in developing opportunities for healthy eating, physical activity, and stress reduction for school and district employees. Her contributions include the implementation of district-wide wellness challenges, recruitment of instructors for staff wellness classes, the creation of a monthly wellness newsletter, and resources to empower other wellness champions to spread the wellness mindset at individual school sites.

Meagan knows that good policies create practices that lead to positive change. Through a focus on both, she consistently motivates her colleagues and students to make healthy choices the norm in schools.

Darren Gapultos

Region: Northern California
Title/Role: Community School Coordinator
Organization/School District: Hillview Junior High, Pittsburg Unified School District

We often underestimate the how proactive shifts in policies, processes, norms, and structures can lead to healthy changes in school environments. Darren Gapultos has pursued these “systems changes” with enthusiasm and perseverance, and the results have increased access to support services for the students and families at Hillview Junior High School.

Darren has been working with school and district leaders to build a dynamic behavioral health system at Hillview that strengthens the social and emotional well-being of the school community. Building that system required a number of foundational efforts, including the identification and coordination of community-based service providers; an Early Warning Indicators (EWI) system to proactively identify students who may be in need of support services; and a multi-disciplinary Coordination of Services Team (COST) where school staff and service providers meet weekly to ensure at-risk students are accessing the right supports for school success.

What does this look like when it all comes together? Recently, Darren identified an opportunity to address student attendance and truancy issues in his school. In order to get to the underlying causes of these issues, Darren met with a local community clinic who has advanced training in health promotion and advocacy. The clinic is implementing a community action and peer health promotion training program for parent leaders at the school that will help amplify the capacity of the whole school to address the needs of the students and their families that often lead to missed school days.

Darren’s ability to bring everyone together and in the spirit of creating the best practices and procedures for supporting the social and emotional health of schools make him a true champion.

Sonya Dunbar

Region: Georgia
Title/Role: Healthcare Science Instructor
Organization/School District: Mount Zion High School, Clayton County Public School District

Show them the possibilities. This is the kind of spirit that Sonya Dunbar exudes in her work to support not only the health and well-being of students at Mount Zion High School but also their future career aspirations. Sonya believes in giving students the tools and vision they need to become the best future health care providers they can be.

Sonya is the advisor for the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) club at her school and has served as the Health Sciences lead teacher in her county. Her passion for health and health care is made evident through the learning opportunities she creates for students to expose them to career opportunities within the health care field. Under her outstanding leadership, HOSA has become a fully built health occupations extracurricular program with nearly 60 affiliated student members, several of whom have assumed a variety of leadership roles within the program.

Working in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, Sonya has led students on tours of Kaiser Permanente medical facilities, fostered career days at her school, and arranged for Kaiser Permanente physicians to visit her school and speak to students about their work. She has also been recognized for her leadership in instituting healthy fundraisers and volunteer engagement opportunities, and was elected by her colleagues to be teacher of the year for Mt. Zion High School for the 2017-2018 school year.

As a registered nurse and certified teacher, Sonya brings her diverse professional background and a creative approach to school health and health care that is opening wide the door to increased learning opportunities and engagement for students.

Centennial Elementary Wellness and Family Engagement Team

Region: Colorado
Title/Role: Wellness and Family Engagement Team
Organization/School District: Centennial Elementary, Harrison District School District 2

The first step in making change is to make a plan. That’s exactly how the Centennial Elementary School Wellness Team built a winning effort at creating a culture of health for everyone in their school community.

Centennial’s health improvement plan laid the groundwork for students and staff to thrive. They built programs to support student physical activity including a Keep It Moving Club, PlayWorks, a Kids Crossfit Club, and yoga for students with special needs. For teachers and staff, they instituted a variety of staff wellness efforts including a staff Color Run, yoga, and a staff fitness club that engages in 30-minute cardio/core strength workouts during the week. Centennial teachers and staff also formed a professional learning community called Positive Impact Team focused on actionable strategies to address trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Parents have had the opportunity to take part in these sessions as well to better equip them to help their children thrive.

The staff at Centennial Elementary are strongly committed to family engagement, wellness, and supports for the whole family. With 90 percent of the school’s student population needing subsidized school lunch programs, Centennial’s Wellness Team felt they needed to do more to help families with their overall health. To that end, the Wellness Team created a variety of initiatives to support families. They offer monthly events and trainings for families as well as countless resources such as clothing, food, emergency support, and mental wellness resources. The Wellness Team also partnered with two local safety-net clinics to offer primary care check-ups and counseling for family members in the vicinity of the school during the school day. They also have an amazing partnership with The Southeast YMCA that Principal Kim Noyes credits with helping the school expand their family engagement and wellness initiatives that are key to the success of their students.  The YMCA does an outreach sports program at Centennial Elementary before school and during recess to help students learn about team sports, play team games, and also promote high levels of attendance and wellness. This outstanding program has expanded the wellness efforts within Centennial Elementary.

With thoughtful foresight, Centennial Elementary’s Wellness and Family Engagement Team has found creative and resourceful ways to address the needs of their school community.

Debbie Wood

Region: Southern California
Title/Role: School Nurse, Coordinator School Health and Neighborhood Support Programs
Organization/School District: Bakersfield City School District

A strong fabric for health must be woven from many threads. As a devoted school health champion, Debbie Wood has demonstrated that the strongest impacts on school health often require a thoughtful weaving together of both policies and program efforts. Her innovations have had a deep and lasting impact in her community.

For more than 27 years, Debbie has dedicated herself to supporting students and families in Kern County where she leads, manages, and coordinates exemplary school nursing services and school health programs. Under her leadership, the Bakersfield City School District has been awarded millions of dollars in grants to support innovative programs aimed at increasing student health and reducing student absences. Through her efforts, the district has instituted free dental services, free eye exams and glasses, asthma education, the opening of school-based health clinics and immunization clinics, the installation of water stations, walking programs, and the development of an exemplary wellness policy that guides the district’s wellness efforts.

Debbie has shaped a strong team of school stakeholders to support the Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools partnership in her district. These include directors, principals, social workers, nurses, and parent liaisons who are committed to collaborating and working together to create a healthier school environments. Her efforts have improved the health of students across her district while setting the standard for student health care across the state.

Jose Campos

Region: Southern California
Title/Role: Director of Parent Involvement and Community Outreach
Organization/School District: Jurupa Unified School District

School health is often a team effort. Jose Campos knows that the path to achieving school health must be built through strong teams of local support and partnership. Since 2014, he has been working districtwide, and intensively at three local elementary schools, to implement strategies for healthy school change that are the result of his collaborative spirit.

A health clinic, two dental programs, and a team of traveling mental health clinicians are just a few of the “wraparound” services that Jose Campos and his team offer students and families in the Jurupa Unified School District. Jose’s drive to help students overcome health and wellness issues that might otherwise interfere with the learning experience has become a model for other districts across the state. Jose’s mission to launch a family school health clinic started when he recognized the dire need for free and low-cost health services as a principal at Troth Street Elementary School. Years of entrepreneurial leadership and a determined, innovative spirit blossomed into partnerships with Kaiser Permanente, Borrego Health’s network of Federal Quality Health Centers, and other community-based organizations.

Jose’s ambition has led to a plethora of school health program and infrastructure improvements in his district: the construction of running tracks, the installation of hydration stations, regular food distributions addressing food insecurity, the installation of hydration stations, and Harvest of the Month implementation at various levels. As Director of Parent Involvement and Community Outreach, Jose also works closely with parents to engage them in school wellness efforts. Parents he has worked with have become walking club organizers, volunteers, and life coaches who enthusiastically advocate for programs and practices that support healthy lifestyles.

Jose is a great partner inside and outside the school district. He has used creative approaches to seek and secure diverse funding and collaborate with internal and external partners to address the complex food, physical activity and school climate challenges in the district and the schools.

Jessica O’Muireadhaigh

Region: Colorado
Title/Role: Director of Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Health
Organization/School District: Aurora Public Schools

Great leaders have great vision. Jessica O’Muireadhaigh demonstrates that having a strong vision for what’s possible can bring school communities together in powerful ways to heal wounds, build resilience, and foster academic success.

Jessica’s visionary leadership is embodied in ways she practices and fosters Social Emotional Learning for all students and staff within Aurora Public Schools. Jessica challenges the status quo and is a true advocate for behavioral health supports for all students. She understands the power of story and wants all students to have a voice. She is the brain child behind A-story, an online platform for Aurora students to share, heal, and inspire others through their untold stories.

Jessica works tirelessly within Aurora Public Schools to support the social, emotional, and behavioral wellness of every student. She does this by making sure there are evidence-based systems in place that address prevention, intervention, and postvention. She leads this work with a child-centered passion that is infectious to all those around her.

Jessica is a high-energy, passionate, committed leader who makes her presence felt just by entering the room. She builds strong teams, works effectively with district leaders, encourages others, and teaches everyone around her that the possibilities are endless.

Bev Brody

Region: Hawaii
Title/Role: Director
Organization/School District: Get Fit Kauai

Bev Brody can move a whole island. As Director of Get Fit Kauai, Bev has been a driving force and visionary for helping Kauai’s communities eat healthier and move more.

Bev has been leading Get Fit Kauai since its inception and the breadth of her impact is impressive. She has worked closely with schools, workplaces, and the mayor to be a continuous champion in making the Kauai landscape a healthier place to live. Her organizing efforts include monthly walk-/ ride-/ roll-to-school day, a flourishing Safe Routes to Schools program, a yearly mayor-a-thon race, increased access to fresh and local fruits and vegetables, and a variety of workforce wellness initiatives. Bev has brought together more than 300 members from local businesses, schools, government agencies, and beyond to continuously drive healthful change on her island. Through her tireless work, Get Fit Kauai’s programs have successfully reached nearly 10% of the island’s population.

Bev believes that lasting change needs to happen at all levels. From the school to the workplace to the community and all the way up to the governor, Bev has demonstrated that a strong continuum of care is what communities need to be happy and healthy.

2017 Honor Roll Champions

Click on the names below to learn more about each of our 2016 Thriving Schools Honor Roll Champions.


2017 Winners

2016 Winners

2015 Winners

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