USD 373 Newton Public Schools is proud to announce that it has been honored with the 2023 Kansas Prevention Education Award by the Kansas Prevention Collaborative. This recognition underscores the district's commitment to prevention education and social-emotional learning.
Nominated by the Harvey County Drug-Free Youth Coalition, USD 373 received this award in recognition of its outstanding contributions to prevention education. The school district has implemented social-emotional learning (SEL) and prevention education initiatives across all grade levels, from preschool to high school. These initiatives encompass vital areas such as self-regulation development, emotional awareness, communication, problem-solving, and emotional understanding.
“This is creating healthier relationships and a more inclusive school climate,” representatives from Mirror, Inc. said.
USD 373 has strategically integrated SEL into its curriculum, empowering students to build essential life skills at every developmental stage. Initiatives like calm corners, buddy classrooms, sensory rooms, family groups, and check-in/check-out systems help students understand and manage their emotions throughout the school day.
At the middle school level, USD 373 has fostered a positive culture by increasing student and staff recognition and holding joint site council meetings with parents. The district has also introduced a substance prevention curriculum in physical education classes, ensuring that students receive valuable prevention education during their formative years.
The high school has taken a leadership role in promoting a clear code of conduct regarding underage drinking and substance use, implementing the Life of an Athlete program. This program emphasizes character development, lifestyle choices, accountability, and effective communication. Students are actively engaged through the Student Activities Leadership Team (SALT), where the focus is on leadership and the 5 C's: Character, Civility, Competence, Chemical Health, and Citizenship.
Newton High School also participates in Mirror, Inc.’s youth prevention model, STAND, empowering over 60 youth leaders within the school to promote and make healthy decisions regarding substance use and mental health.
“We partnered with Mirror a couple years ago to transform the way we handle drugs and alcohol at our campus. It used to be that a student would be expelled, we wanted to start balancing education with accountability,” NHS Principal Blake Smith said.
USD 373 Newton Public Schools maintains a partnership with the Harvey County Drug-Free Youth Coalition and Mirror, Inc.'s Prevention Department. This collaboration has successfully implemented a screening, brief intervention, and referral process for substance and mental health treatment, providing crucial support to students in need. As a result, there has been a significant reduction in suspension hearings, increased student participation in school activities, fewer tardies, and a decrease in substance use both at school and at home.
"We have monthly D-FY meetings, and the great thing about them is we can collaborate with other schools in the area and other stakeholders in Newton to help us continue evolving the way we handle substance use in our community,” Smith said.
The Student Activities Leadership Team (SALT) has been an integral part of the development and ownership of "The Railer Way." This group of student leaders formed to provide input on USD 373 policies and activities, and their ownership of making the culture change in school is why this has been successful.
"When we redesigned our Code of Conduct 7 years ago, we gathered students, parents, coaches, and community members to gather input for redesigning our Code of Conduct to include more accountability, leadership expectations, and character building for our students participating in extracurricular activities," Brian Becker, Athletic Director said.
The Railer Way code of conduct is modeled after the successful program called "Life of an Athlete" which was brought to Newton High by the Harvey County Drug Free Youth Coalition.
"Over the years our SALT team has helped us modify the policy to develop more ways to support and help students who need it while still maintaining those high levels of character expectations. They have been at the forefront of teaching others that "The Railer Way is not a set of rules aimed and catching kids doing bad things, but rather to give students reasons to make healthy choices and do things the right way," Becker said.
USD 373 is proud of this achievement and remains committed to fostering a safe and supportive environment for our students.