Educating the Whole Child

    Susie V. Castillo, School Board Member for District 5

    The well-being of the entire child is a shared responsibility. Parents are at the forefront, but as educators, and as a school system, we, too, share in that responsibility.  As a school board member for the nation’s 4th largest school district for nearly 8 years, I have had the privilege of being an advocate for prevention, education, and intervention strategies and programs that truly support our students.

    During my term, I have always made it a point to remain conscious of what is happening in our community and the issues that most impact our students, teachers, and school system. Keeping that in mind, my main priority has always been to work diligently to provide a safe, healthy and supportive learning environment with a focus on improving the mental, emotional, and behavioral support opportunities for all our students continues to be my passion.

    We constantly hear from our students that they feel pressured and stressed on the daily due to situations at home, large amounts of homework and tests, not resting enough, issues with friends, and the list continues. There are a wide range of possible consequences to these feelings if left unaddressed. The daily stresses students are exposed to have been known to lead to depression, anxiety, as well as vulnerability to different types of abuses and disorders. The good news is that we have many school-based resources available to our students, and as a board, we continue to advocate for more.

    Improving student to counselor ratios in the school system is a priority. Counselors are available to help our students develop their academic, social, and emotional potential. A counselor is also trained to assist students with their personal and social growth as well as their educational development and guidance for their careers. Every year improving the counselor to student ratio continues to be an issue I address as we make our yearly staff allocations every year. 

    I continue to work to improve homework policy guidelines by proposing to empower educators through new and improved measures. These measures are in place to increase awareness of the District’s homework policy, improve compliance with the same while considering the individual academic needs of a student, and parent input to come up with what is best for each child.  By actively supporting partnerships with our community and programs available to our students and that they otherwise would not know about, I remain a champion for the alleviation of homework guidelines.

    One program that we partner with is the Health Information Project (HIP), which makes talking about all aspects of health the norm among students and their peers, making conversations about health  more common, safe and acceptable, we have provided our students with an alternative to health education which is so important to their development and growth.

    Likewise, I have made it a priority to address issues that are less talked about. The main one of them being grief. Our students need to be able to engage in a school setting when they have lost someone close to

    them due to illness, accidents, suicides or homicides.  Through partnerships with the Children’s Bereavement Center and The Coalition to Support Grieving Student our district has made great strides in

    not only providing for our grieving students, but also in increasing sensitivity to all those who are grieving in our school’s district through the Grief Sensitive Schools program.

    My door is always open, and I welcome and encourage parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community stakeholders to call or write to me with questions, concerns, ideas, or recommendations. My office number is 305-995-1334 and my email address is

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