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  • Joe Otter

Successes and Advice from an NCS3 Learning Collaborative Alumni District

Joe Otter

Lansingburgh District Lead

Joe Otter, NCS3 District Lead for Lansingburgh, NY public schools, writes this blog as his district completes their participation in Cohort 1 of the 2-year NCS3 Learning Collaborative. Joe describes below the ways in which NCS3 catalyzed the district’s priorities for advancing comprehensive school mental health. This includes his district’s completion of the School Mental Health Quality Assessments and the Trauma Responsive Schools Implementation Assessment (TRS-IA) to identify their priorities. Finally, Joe provides advice for cohort 2 regarding the importance of fully engaging district partners into the NCS3 project.


One of our biggest successes in our participation with NCS3 LC (National Center for Safe Supportive Schools Learning Collaborative) is that we resumed using the Holistic Student Assessment with our students. The findings of this assessment have allowed us to better hone our understanding of the numerous challenges (Covid-related and continued high unemployment) that our students are facing and determine a course of action to best support them in the school and community.


We have had much success in our engagement of pupil personnel services and administration. The pupil personnel services staff see the value in the support that NCS3 LC provides and the subsequent steps we have taken in accordance with that. Our administration has been great about allotting the time needed for the NCS3 LC professional development and for administering the HSA.


The way we have gained and maintained momentum is by having the work of NCS3 LC woven into several existing district initiatives. The HSA results will be utilized by multiple stakeholders including our Trauma Sensitive Schools efforts, our social emotional learning programming and several other grants we are participating in. The resource guide we are developing with NCS3 LC will aid us in our work on other grant projects. Nothing is done just because it's for NCS3 LC, we frame everything as a way to support something else we are doing.


One of the most important lessons we have learned is to do the planning for fitting in the faculty professional development for NCS3 LC as early as possible. There can be a lot of competition for professional development time (all of them being worthwhile) and you need to come forward with a plan to get it done and a justification for why it will be beneficial for many different stakeholders.


The best advice I can give is to make sure you have representation from partnering agencies and build your meeting schedule and modality to meet their needs. The representation our team has had from the local (county) mental health department, the New York State Office of Mental Health, New York State Education Department and a local educational services agency, Questar III, have been invaluable in terms of their guidance with decision making, awareness of resources, and bringing a fresh outside perspective. We are evolving our mental health supports to students, and it would stand to reason that those that provide services to us and oversight for our district would be great stakeholders to have at the table as you go about the work. These folks are also in tune with what other districts in our area are doing and that can be invaluable.

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