Northshore School District Mental Health Behind the Scenes
Carmen Dalziel, Northshore School District Executive Mental Health Director
Tell me your name and a little bit about yourself.
Carmin Dalziel – BHS Northshore Grad. BA in Communications from WSU , Masters in Public Administration from Seattle University.
I worked 9 years for the Boys & Girls Club and 9 years for the Centers for Spiritual Living. I obtained a certification in spiritual counseling while I was at CSL.
What is Northshore Schools Foundation?
It’s a volunteer-led community organization that works to amplify the work being done by the Northshore School District and fill the gaps that currently can't be addressed at this time.
What is your role in a Northshore foundation?
Iam the executive director and I have been here since August 2010
How has it grown over the past few years?
Covid was an accelerant for us - in that people wanted to help local families struggling with job loss and home schooling. Many people stepped up to provide funds that we were able to redirect to local families to help with at-home teaching aids, internet access, utility bills, and other hard ships that came as a result of the pandemic. Because our support was so far-reaching, we have seen a much larger sense of need from the students and families in the district.
Since students have been back in the classroom, we are receiving record numbers of classroom grant requests, and more and more families are reaching out.
What have been some challenging roadblocks along the way?
People think that the pandemic is over, and that students and families are no longer struggling as badly as during the pandemic. That is not our experience at all. Now that people know that we are here to help, more people are asking. It's a good thing to get better known, but it means an increased demand for services and grant funding.
Also, it's getting harder and harder to reach people. Fewer people are attending events and opening emails and writing checks. Everyone is overwhelmed and trying to manage what experience is in their life... and its harder to stay connected to our supporters.
How have you seen the Northshore foundation and mental health overlap?
Honestly, I have said for years that the mental health needs of our students is not something that a small non-profit can solve on its own. We have purposefully diverted our energy to other areas, to stay in our lane and to do things that we can with the resources available.
Looking back we have been involved in the mental health space for years.
Our basic needs aid fund which provides $200 to any family with Northshore Students - was designed to decrease stress - just a little = when a family faces a crisis. It's not enough to solve any big problems, but we hoped it would be enough to maybe fill the gas tank, and buy some groceries to fill the cupboards so that the adult in the family can focus on solving the problem at hand.
Our removing barriers fund supports families who are experiencing large scale issues, and we are hopeful that the support they get will help bring the family back to a level set point and decrease the stress on the family. Even more important is the support we provide for families can really help students get back on track, and return to school with a little more stress.
We fund scholarships for students who are highly driven but often don't have the funding to cover the regional/state/national competitions that they qualify for. Knowing those funds are available helps students, teachers and parents decrease stress associated with success and moving to the next level.
At the district level, we have been supporters of Positive Behavior Interventions training for every school in the district. This supports teachers in meeting the social and emotional needs of students, before there is an issue.
In each school, we have funded supports for racial and educational justice mostly by providing books. Books are an intimate and direct way to provide students with an experience of a character that either shows them a mirror of themselves so they can see it more clearly or a window into the lives of others so they can develop more compassion.
We have also been supporters of the new elementary-level mental health counselors as they have been brought on over the last few years. We have provided those counselors with supports and office equipment to create environments where students feel comfortable connecting with them.
Many of our classroom grants are aimed at creating experiences where students can succeed and fit in in the classroom environment. From a wobble chair that helps a student focus to High-Interest/ Low reading level books that allow students who are struggling with reading comprehension to read at the same time as their peers. We are seeing a lot of requests for "quiet corners" or "oasis spaces" that allow students to step away and self correct and since covid our youth board has been growing and thriving, creating an experience where students can feel heard and know that their voice makes a difference.
It was the Youth board the helped our board see that we needed to do something about student mental health, and they are the ones who have informed our choices on funding.
I don't want to say that we are creating an environment where all students just fit in, but I want to say that we work to allow students to stand out for things that they choose.