a community engagement initiative of Waverly Community Unit District #6
Keeping up with Superintendent Andrea Guerrero is an exhausting proposition. A self-proclaimed fixer, she has a history of organizing, fixing, and moving on, displays a nuanced understanding of each situation, and proves decisive. Our conversation pauses multiple times as she is called upon to solve real-time issues.
Despite the interruptions, she eagerly returns to our conversation, effortlessly picking up exactly where she left off. She speaks matter-of-factly and logically on a subject that warrants such an approach, data analysis.
Dr. Guerrero uses data to maintain an understanding of where people are so that she can proactively deduce where they need to go. She doesn’t simply focus on the students but on the entire community. She understands that everyone’s well being is interconnected. This proactive approach ensures efficiency and effectiveness in a place that may not seem the most likely of homes for such a black-and-white approach, emotional well-being.
Through Dr. Guerrero, the Waverly school system received a Community Partnership Grant, a highly competitive grant valued at $625,000. While the initial application requested two-hundred fifty thousand dollars, Waverly received over three hundred thousand additional dollars, a feat Dr. Guerrero calls unbelievable.
The funding provides social, emotional, and behavioral support through programs and staff training through Positive Behavior Intervention Support or PBIS. As defined by PBIS.org, PBIS is “an evidence-based three-tiered framework to improve and integrate all of the data, system, and practices affecting student outcomes every day.”
Or, as Dr. Guerrero explains, it’s a “social-emotional, academic and behavioral model. It runs all three pieces together rather than a bunch of separate programs that don’t make sense.” The program recognizes that someone struggling socially or emotionally is likely to struggle academically (or professionally) or act out behaviorally. The goal is wellness, or identifying and addressing issues, rather than simply minimizing symptoms.
Programs are developed and enhanced by data mining to find common themes throughout the community. They not only provide resources today but also can potentially minimize the need for intervention tomorrow. For example, analyzing data such as the 82 non-emergency calls requesting resources within the community identified the need to focus on suicide prevention, depression, and anxiety. The data can be further broken down by sub-groups if and as needed to address those most at risk.
Through careful analysis of data comes understanding. And with proper understanding comes efficient and effective programs. Dr. Guerrero shares that “when we initially wrote the grant, we wrote it to connect with the regional office of education’s program. They were doing adult wellness and professional development for healthy adults. Then we had a secondary system. We did not have a multi-tiered group system of support in place, which is part of the state improvement plan for schools and best teaching practices.”
She adds, “It helps us streamline our services and ensures we’re not duplicating those services.”
A community-wide survey showed that the priority was the students’ social-emotional well-being, so that’s where the initial funding and support began. But through the additional funding, projects expanded from outside the school hallways and into the community. Rather than being disconnected, programs could be layered for maximum effect.
“We added in that much-needed adult component. Last year I started the wellness component for adults because if you can’t self-regulate as an adult, it’s very difficult to teach someone else how to self-regulate,” says Dr. Guerrero
While Dr. Guerrero’s work is complex, there are also fun and engaging aspects. From book studies to yoga to high intensity interval training (or HIIT workouts), a staff that comes together bonds as a team. These activities build optimism and resilience and decrease stress, which can improve the school district’s climate. And as always, Dr. Guerrero and her Board have the data to prove it!