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Raymond Central receives Governor’s Award for new staff wellness program
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Raymond Central receives Governor’s Award for new staff wellness program

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Raymond Central

RAYMOND – When the faculty and staff at Raymond Central Public Schools attend meetings during in-service days, they have a way to get the blood flowing again after sitting for a long time.

They go for a walk or play a game of pickup basketball.

It is all part of an award-winning wellness plan crafted by the a team of school administrators, teachers and community members, according to Rebecca Parks, a member of the team and the school’s family and consumer science teacher.

The plan was recognized by state and local organizations. In September, Raymond Central Public Schools received the Governor’s Wellness Award for its outstanding worksite wellness programs given by Gov. Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Last week, they were also recognized during the Wellbeing Partners’ Ignite Awards Gala in Omaha. The Wellbeing Partners is an organization whose mission it is to build wellbeing into the community and businesses through advocacy, collaboration and education, according to their website.

Parks said the district received the Sower’s Award, which is given to first-time applicants for the Governor’s Wellness Award. If they continue to grow and maintain the program, they will be a candidate for the Grower’s Award, she added.

The staff wellness program grew out of an initiative to focus on student wellness after the district updated its wellness policy, Parks said. Five years ago, a committee was formed to create a student wellness plan as required by the US Department of Agriculture for all schools participating in national school meal programs.

The District Wellness Committee (DWC) was made up of Parks, then-Superintendent Dr. Derek Joel, Junior/Senior High School Principal Allison Stansberry, Ceresco Elementary Principal Ann Egr, Valparaiso Elementary Principal Shelly Dostal, Food Service Manager Patty Hudson, Board of Education Member Brad Breitkreutz, who is also a support staff member, and Beth Nacke, a resident of the school district, who leads the committee.

“She has been a monumental leader,” Parks said.

The team meetsevery other month to establish goals and monitor school health and safety programs. They also periodically review and update the school’s wellness policy.

Joel was instrumental in leading the team as they began the wellness program process. This summer he left his position as superintendent and was replaced as interim superintendent, and on the Wellness Team, by Interim Superintendent Lynn Johnson.

Parks said the DWC spent quite a bit of time revamping the wellness policy. The policy includes guidance on healthy school meals, water consumption, the types of foods allowed to be sold outside of the school meal programs and brought to school celebrations and offers an alternative list of rewards to offer students rather than candy or sweets.

The policy also promotes nutrition and healthy eating in the school buildings, educates students and staff about nutrition and healthy eating and promotes physical activity like recess, PE class and before and after school programs.

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The wellness policy also says the district will form relationships with community partners to support implementation of the wellness program and will promote wellness to the families and general community living in the school district.

One example of community involvement is the fun run organized to raise money for the Backpack Program. The student council also sponsors a blood drive, Parks said.

After developing the wellness policy, the school board assigned the DWC the task of developing a school wellness plan that focused on students. Once that was implemented, the next assignment involved a program for the staff.

“Last year we trained our focus on staff wellness,” Parks said.

The program’s success has not come without challenges.

Parks said they were not given a budget to start with, so they had to be creative. Fortunately, they have received $3,000 Healthy Schools Mini Grant from the Nebraska Department of Education to help further the program.

They intend to put the money towards incentives for healthy activity and/or bringing in outside instructors for subjects like yoga, Parks said.

“We plan on using our funds to really build our program this year,” she said.

The staff has responded well to the wellness program so far, according to Parks.

“They are very open to wellness changes,” she said.

The teachers, administrators and support staff have also been providing information about their health

through an anonymous survey. Parks said they use the results, which include data on sleep habits and stress, to help guide the wellness program.

“Not every member of the staff was required to (complete the survey), but most of our staff did, so it’s pretty accurate,” Parks said.

The governor emphasized the importance of wellness initiatives to promote healthy lifestyles, encourage a better quality of life, and increase workplace productivity during the recognition ceremony, which was held virtually on Sept. 9.

Suzi Nelson is the managing editor of the Wahoo Newspaper. Reach her via email at suzi.nelson@wahoonewspaper.com.

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