Newark CSD striving to create culture of belonging

COURTESY OF NEWARK CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

According to Superintendent Susan Hasenauer, fostering a greater sense of belonging within the Newark Central School District is paramount to ensuring the greatest climate for academic success.  

“This year, more than ever, as we come back to school and unite after a year and a half of uncertainty and change, fostering a sense of belonging and importance for both students and staff is essential as we look to provide diverse opportunities and great academic experiences for every student, every day,’’ she said. “As we move into the 2021-22 school year, we will have a laser-like focus on helping everyone feel welcome and safe at school, as we know their sense of belonging is one of the greatest factors in academic achievement. Creating a safe, nurturing environment in which students can learn and staff are supported so that they are able to do the work necessary to focus on our students is essential to our culture and climate. 

“In congruence with our schools, where we want our students and staff to have a clear sense of belonging, we desire to build the same climate for our families and community partnerships by creating diverse and meaningful opportunities for engagement. As we identify and promote the social-emotional health of our students and proactively work to provide opportunities and resources that positively support the whole child, we look to [the district community] to be our partner.” 

Hasenauer’s assertions were the theme of her opening presentation at Superintendents Conference Day. It included a video supporting her contentions, called “Building a Belonging Classroom,” and posed the question, “What’s the magic behind making students and employees feel empowered and included, so that both can reach their highest potential each day?”  

“In order to begin to answer this question, we need to re-anchor ourselves and identify who we are, not only as a school district, but as individuals within an organization; where we’ve been; and what we have accomplished and learned from our recent experiences,” Hasenauer said. “It is through this retrospection that we will then be able to be deliberate in our action steps moving forward, so that we can collaboratively work toward fostering a culture and climate where students can learn in an environment where they feel both physically and emotionally safe, where academic programs truly provide equitable opportunities for all students and where community and family partnerships help bridge the gaps for our most vulnerable students. Furthermore, we will be capable of enabling ourselves, our teams and our systems for future sustainability.” 

NCSD is implementing an anonymous, safe school helpline for reporting all types of safety-related concerns and issues like harassment or bullying. Individuals feeling alone, depressed or suicidal will receive counseling and intervention services. To access these services, visit safeschoolhelpline.com or text “TIPS” to 614-426-0240.   

To celebrate the start of the 2021-22 academic year, Hasenauer spent an hour on School Bus No. 91 as students traveled to Lincoln and Perkins schools.  

Susan Hasenauer, superintendent of the Newark Central School District, rides Bus No. 91 with students to their first day of school.

“Nothing is better than seeing the excitement in the eyes of a child on the opening day of school or watching their proud parents take pictures as they board the bus,” she said. “I had the opportunity to not only experience those first magical moments, but also had the immense privilege to greet each student by name alongside Mary VanDuyne, the bus driver, and Mandy Hutt, the monitor. 

“It’s so amazing how simple connections and the feeling of being welcomed and recognized sets the tone for the day. For our youngest riders, who were leaving home to go to school for the first time, being greeted with a positive message created a culture on Bus 91 that promoted a sense of belonging, giving students the social and emotional support that helps them feel invested in their day and part of the school community. It’s a win-win for both and sets a positive tone for every student the rest of the day, which is all part of the journey that makes Newark home.” 

Hasenauer then went to each of the five school buildings and bus garage, and left inspirational T-shirts for every district employee.