Have you ever wondered how OEA Choice Trust grantees use grant funds to develop and implement efficient, inclusive and sustainable School Employee Wellness programs?
OEA Choice Trust Success Stories were developed to feature school employee wellness journeys and successes of grantees across Oregon. OEA Choice Trust is excited to share three new stories – Astoria School District, Central Curry School District and The Village School.
Astoria School District
Astoria School District is located in upper northwest corner of the state. The district is comprised of six buildings and 220 employees, and 1,875 students attend school there.
Astoria School District recognized that stress was an issue for staff.
“People who go into education are selfless – they always put others first. The district office could see the amount of stress people had; we wanted to do something to help.”
At the end of their third grant year, Astoria School District’s program has engaged 60% of employees through Walker Tracker challenges, on-site exercise equipment, yoga passes, healthy eating and cooking opportunities and stress reduction opportunities. Mindfulness and relaxation strategies were featured in a district-wide in-service. There is also support for employees to create their own building-level wellness opportunities, such as the middle school book club, which read a book about emotional resilience for educators.
Central Curry School District
Central Curry School District is located in Gold Beach, a coastal town in the southwestern corner of the state. The district is comprised of approximately 70 employees and serves 485 students in three buildings. The district was experiencing high staff turnover and economic strains when they applied for a School Employee Wellness grant.
Central Curry School District’s wellness program has included health screenings, wellness challenges and activities such as healthy cooking classes. One wellness challenge was for employees to walk all the local tsunami evacuation routes. The district’s Cocoon Rooms have also been a great success; these rooms feature massage chairs and relaxation resources. School administrators provide job coverage so employees can use the Cocoon Rooms to take breaks during the day. Also, partnering with Oregon State University Extension Services allowed the district to offer strategies for budget-friendly, healthy cooking. In the program’s third year, staff participation in the program was 97%.
The Village School
The Village School is a K-8 public charter school in Eugene. With a school garden, organic scratch kitchen, composting program and chickens, the Village School had an established foundation for physical well-being. With staff feeling the effects of stressful workloads, the school applied for a School Employee Wellness grant to help address emotional and social well-being.
With funding, The Village School provided all staff with social-emotional workshops, on-site yoga, meditation and tai-chi classes and fitness classes. By tapping into staff skills and hobbies, the program offered activities like cider pressing, massage and basket weaving. A room was also dedicated and furnished for staff relaxation and wellness. By the end of their fifth grant year, the program engaged 100% of employees.
“Taking care of our health is a priority now. It’s an expectation—it’s the norm, a given and part of the regular conversation.”
Though each grantee tailored their program to the unique needs of their staff, certain elements helped all of them achieve their goals.
1. Staff survey – By conducting a staff needs and interests survey regarding employee wellness, wellness teams and administrators were able to provide the wellness activities and opportunities that staff wanted. Review the OEA Choice Trust’s Employee Wellness Needs and Interest Survey, a free resource.
2. Administrator buy-in – Each organization succeeded by having strong leadership support. Central Curry School District administrators offer job coverage so employees can use the Cocoon Rooms to relax and emotionally self-regulate. The Village School’s principal served on the wellness committee and provides staff meeting time for program announcements and activities. Astoria School District’s superintendent is the program’s lead champion, participates in wellness opportunities and served on the wellness committee.
3. Wellness teams – Each grantee had a group of employees that worked together to implement their wellness program. By diversifying these groups, the wellness teams brought different voices to the table and learned even more about what all staff wanted from the program. Even at The Village School, a one building organization, sharing wellness coordinator responsibilities helped with efficiency and ownership. By sharing the work, wellness teams were able to gain momentum and deeply commit to continuing their wellness efforts.
4. A holistic approach – Including multiple elements of well-being (physical, social, emotional, purpose and financial) in their programs led to increased engagement. Addressing stress through mindfulness, relaxation rooms, meditation, massage and social activities allowed staff to participate without committing to a new exercise routine or group challenge. Many activities, such as healthy potlucks, fostered both social and physical well-being. Check out the OEA Choice Trust School Employee Health, Well-being and Resilience Model, which is also rooted in a holistic approach to employee wellness.
5. Walker Tracker – Using Walker Tracker, a walking challenge program free to all Trust grantees, allowed team to engage employees from all sectors of the workforce. In addition to having strong participation in the district-versus-district challenge hosted by OEA Choice Trust each fall, Astoria School District uses customized Walker Tracker maps and building versus building challenges within the district to engage employees. Walker Tracker is a great way to include those with different work schedules and those that exercise on their own; it promotes a culture of wellness that includes all staff. With its handy conversion feature, everything from housework to cycling to weight lifting can be converted to steps in the Walker Tracker program.
Upcoming Grant Opportunity
At OEA Choice Trust, we do not believe that staff wellness programs are one-size-fits-all. We recognize that school districts, education service districts and community colleges face many diverse health and wellness issues; that’s why the School Employee Wellness Grant Program allows the flexibility to tailor programs to best match the unique goals and needs of local organizations to promote the well-being of all staff.
A School Employee Wellness Grant opportunity is available now! Grant applications are due on November 5, 2019. Get the application here: SEW Grant Application.
Check out the other 12 Success Stories for more school employee wellness inspiration.