All of Wayne County’s school personnel soon will have more insights for their interactions with students who’ve been impacted by trauma and adversity.

Richmond Community Schools’ board approved a $47,215 contract for Trust-Based Relational Intervention, known as TBRI, through Greenwood-based consultant Hope Alight. TBRI is geared for anyone working directly with children, such as paraprofessionals, bus drivers and teachers.

TBRI is based on years of attachment, sensory processing and neuroscience research that shows children who’ve experienced trauma have changes in their bodies, brains, behaviors and belief systems, its website notes. Those difficulties in trusting adults sometimes lead to perplexing behaviors. 

The worldwide program, which was developed at Texas Christian University, has spread through the education community to address children’s physical and attachment needs and disarm fear-based behaviors.

Dawn Sonsini

Assistant Superintendent Dawn Sonsini told RCS board members that interest has developed in TBRI from within the school buildings. She said several grants and community partners will cover the district’s cost.

United Way of Whitewater Valley paid for Western Wayne, Northeastern, Nettle Creek and Centerville-Abington school districts’ employees to receive TBRI training from Hope Alight a couple years ago.

However, a previous RCS administration, already using another social-emotional learning program, didn’t choose to take advantage of United Way funding at that time.   

“It feels like the right thing to do now,” Sonsini said.

Board member John Weber said he was concerned about adding one more program for busy staff.

However, Dennis Intermediate principal Crystal Cooper is familiar with TBRI at other schools where she’s worked, and supports the plan.

“The difference it can make in a building behavior-wise is worth it,” Cooper said.

TBRI focuses on identifying the root cause of students’ issues and helping them respond in more constructive ways. TBRI also helps teachers understand their responses to student behaviors based on their own life experiences, which can be very eye-opening, Cooper said.   

In other business

  • School board members urged RCS administrators to present a final plan outlining schools’ start and end times for the 2023-24 school year at the board’s next meeting, 5:30 p.m. June 14 at the administration building, 300 Hub Etchison Parkway. Discussions regarding school schedules have been taking place for several months involving various stakeholders. Board members noted that parents, employers, after-school programs and others impacted need to know those times soon.

    Bell schedule discussions have focused on maximizing professional development opportunities, especially for teachers of grades 5-12, since many RCS teachers are relatively new to the district. However, even slight schedule changes could greatly impact transportation and must be weighed carefully, Chief Financial Officer Karen Scalf noted.
  • RCS will rejoin East Central Educational Service Center for approximately $17,000 to benefit from its professional development and student activities.
  • RCS is changing how it selects valedictorians. Beginning with the class of 2027, the valedictorian will have the highest core weighted GPA, followed by the salutatorian.
  • Because of a state law change, concession stands must charge sales tax as of July 1 because RCS’ annual sales exceed $20,000.
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A version of this article appeared in the June 7 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.