Today, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), and the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) announced new educator wellness investments to support the mental health and well-being of educators across the District.
“The mental health and well-being of our educators is critical to sustaining an effective, resilient educator workforce, and that is vital to the success of our students,” said State Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant. “We must give our educators and school leaders the support they need to promote safe, healthy, joyful and welcoming learning environments for all students.”
A new, one-year Whole School Educator Wellness grant opportunity offered by OSSE will help schools adopt organization-level approaches to create workplaces centered on educator wellbeing and equity.
Employee wellness programs often focus on individual change, putting the onus on the individual to manage workplace and personal stress on their own, but focusing on organizational changes to workplace culture to prevent stress from occurring is most effective. The $500,000 investment of Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds aims to bridge the gap between individual and organizational supports.
Schools accepted into a Whole School Educator Wellness Cohort will be matched with awarded community-based organizations to develop and implement educator wellness plans and develop and sustain organizational wellness.
“OSSE believes in supporting the whole educator just as we do the whole child, and that is why the District continues to invest in this important work,” said Superintendent Grant. “And, with these investments, we can support schools in the development or enhancement of school cultures that embrace a whole school approach to educator wellness. Ultimately, we hope these investments support improved mental health and educator retention,”
“Our partnership with OSSE creates an opportunity to support the wellness for all school staff members,” said Barbara J. Bazron, Ph.D. Director, Department of Behavioral Health. “This program not only provides resources for our faculty and staff, but it empowers the community of educators to engage in healthy habits for good physical and mental health to better support our students.”
OSSE has also invested over $1 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds from the US Department of Education, to support the mental health and well-being of DC educators. This investment includes OSSE’s Educator Wellness Technical Assistance Grant which provided funding to five grantees over two years to partner with 25 schools to incorporate systemic approaches to comprehensively address staff wellness. OSSE has also invested $250,000 of local funds over the last two years in professional development for educators and school leaders centered on wellness and positive school climate, including a series focused on mindfulness practices in schools, and another series aimed at increasing educator wellness through trauma-informed and healing-centered practices.
The importance of investing in educator wellness is also reflected in DBH’s investment in their Educator Wellness Program which leverages over $250,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to enhance the resilience of DC educators. Through programmatic consultation, educator wellness activities, and individual wellness supports, DBH provides resources to DC educators to build school wellness practices, participate in wellness workshops, and receive time-limited individual supports or connections to wellness resources in DC.
To learn more about OSSE’s efforts to support the whole educator – to include training programs and wellness supports, visit osse.dc.gov.