Budget discussions and results of a suicide-prevention experiment related to depression were the main topics of discussion at the latest Board of Education meeting last Monday.

The proceedings were opened by a presentation from Margaret Widgren, JTHS’ Director of Student Personnel Services. Widgren, part of the school’s counseling department, showcased the results of experiments conducted through the Sandy Hook Promise Grant. Through a series of mental health counselor-led training sessions for teachers and students alike, the project sought to identify students at risk of suicide.

District students in sixth, seven, and eighth grades were surveyed on a variety of issues related to depression, including a prompt to directly address whether they had actively thought of killing themselves. Widgren explained that while most suicide prevention techniques often discourage directness, such an approach could in fact significantly decrease the possibility of self-harm or death.

Results found that 22 percent of students were at risk of depression. But, armed with an approach of direct contact and collaboration with counselors, district faculty is now equipped to work with affected students through a method labeled A.C.T.: acknowledge, care, and tell.

Members of the board discussed several budget concerns during the proceedings held in Jefferson Township High School’s media center. Superintendent of Schools Jeanne Howe remarked an ongoing “crisis” the township is facing is among the chief concerns as the new year gets fully underway.

According to Howe, aid has been stifled by S2, a law that did away with aid provided by the School Funding Reform Act passed in 2008.

“It is predicted that the district will lose $2.2 million dollars next year alone in State aid due to S2,” Howe told TJC. “We are currently in the early stages of budget development for the 2020-2021 school year and will be updating the public as the process develops.”

“I look forward to attending PTA meetings to inform our parents of the crisis and potential cuts in next year’s budget and the budget of future years.”

Among the budget issues discussed in Monday’s open portion were purchase orders, vendors’ bills lists, and funds transfers relating to the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Howe reviewed the district’s report on harassment, intimidation, and bullying. A successful showing of JTHS’ annual holiday concert was commemorated, as was the early success of both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

The Board will next meet on February 17.

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