Bismarck Elementary School Counselor Ashley Deason is seeing the effect that the pandemic is having on her students.
“I will say that we all are in kind of unprecedented times with COVID,” she said. “And sometimes people think that it's not affecting the kids, because they're not watching the news or anything like that. But I will say in all of these small groups, it comes up a lot.”
Deason is referring to the small groups that she created for students this year, her first year at the school. She gave the Bismarck Board of Education members an update during her Guidance Report at the November meeting.
She said she’s had an overwhelming response to the groups: one for loss and grief, one for anger, one for anxiety, and changing families, which encompasses divorce.
“We do have students that have lost a loved one due to COVID,” Deason said. “A lot of students are angry about it because their whole world is turned upside down. And we have a lot of students that worry about a loved one getting sick.”
She has helped to equip the teachers as well, by leading professional development sessions about trauma and how the pandemic is affecting the students.
Outside help is also sometimes necessary, Deason said.
“Here at Bismarck, we do a lot for our families and our students,” she added. “But we also realize that we can't do it alone. So we do connect students with outside services that need that extra counseling support outside of school.”
She also told the board about the school’s comprehensive guidance counseling program, which encompasses character education, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol education, careers, a healthy self-concept, and a growth mindset.
During the meeting, Deason was also honored as the faculty member of the quarter for the elementary school. She was nominated by many of her coworkers, Principal Katie Martinez said.
“Many have stated that Ashley has gone above and beyond her job description,” Martinez said. “She's been working very hard to benefit our students and they said she just gets them.”
One of her coworkers said her wisdom and kind demeanor resonates in every area of conversation and actions.
“(You) just jumped in,” Martinez said to Deason. “You weren't from here. You really weren't familiar with us and you jumped right in and you've always been a big help to all of us and you're truly appreciated and we are so happy have you.”
Nurse Rylie Grundmann was honored as the other faculty member of the quarter. This is also her first year with the district and Junior/Senior High Principal Abe Warren said she’s done a fantastic job of juggling caring for students with contract tracing and working with the health center.
Jaxson Grounds and Janson King were honored as the elementary and high school students of the month, respectively.
Community member Cleo Reeder was also honored for his dedication and service to the students and faculty in the district.
"For over 10 years, he has faithfully done our Bible club for elementary students," Shannon Nelson said about Reeder. "He has mentored our students. He has provided snacks and goodies for teachers in the workroom."
In his report, Superintendent Jason King told the board that there will be two board seats open in the April election. Filing for the position starts Dec. 15 and ends Jan. 19.
In other business, the board:
- approved the payment of bills and policy updates.
- approved the School Governance and Administration Report, the fall Guidance Reports, and the annual evaluation of District Goals.
- approved May 21 as the placeholder for graduation in 2021.
Nikki Overfelt is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.