By Claire Walla
Some D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs.
Others fry an egg ands say, “this is your brain on drugs.”
In the realm of substance-abuse prevention programs, methods for getting kids to “just say no” are various, and Sag Harbor Elementary School may be adding another mantra to the mix.
At a school board meeting Monday, May 21 elementary school principal Matt Malone spoke of a program that asserts, quite simply, kids are “too good for drugs.”
Created by a national organization called the Mendez Foundation, Too Good For Drugs is a substance-abuse prevention program that focuses not merely on the consequences of substance abuse, but on the strength of the character of each child.
According to the foundation’s website, the program “introduces and develops social and emotional skills for making healthy choices, building positive friendships, communicating effectively, and resisting peer pressure.”
It does so by focusing on five key categories: goal setting, decision making, bonding with pro-social others, identifying and managing emotions and communicating effectively.
These principles are then woven into the curriculum for each grade level.
“At this moment, we’re just at the exploratory phase,” Malone said.
The school’s assistant principal Donna Dennon and guidance counselor Michelle Grant recently received training in the program. However, at this point Malone explained that he and his staff are just looking into the possibility of running Too Good For Drugs as a pilot program for third graders next year.
This possibility was first brought to Malone’s attention by Sag Harbor School Board President Mary Anne Miller earlier this year as a suggestion for strengthening the district’s efforts to prevent substance abuse.
“The curriculum we have in place is multi-faceted,” Malone added.
He went on to explain that students are taught at an early age to distinguish between good and bad drugs, then in grade three students learn about the harms of cigarettes and in grades four and fives students discuss the dangers of alcohol.
If implemented, Too Good For Drugs would be another program added to the mix.
Malone continued, “We’re always trying to bring new innovative programs to the kids.”
Similarly, Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols spoke of the programs in place to prevent the instance of substance abuse at the upper school.
“Our [prevention programs] are based on the philosophy of trying to reach students from different angles,” Nichols said. “That’s the best way to reach as many students as possible.”
So this year, in addition to lessons in seventh and tenth grade health classes, educational assemblies, special speakers, teen leadership programs, outside counseling and the annual prom presentation, Nichols introduced a Community Coalition.
The group is made up of school personnel, as well as members of the community, and reflects 11 different constituencies in Sag Harbor. (These include police officers, religious officials, parents and counselors, among others.)
“Their philosophy here being that the drug/alcohol problem can only be solved by the community addressing it,” Nichols said. “The Community Coalition is an effort to make this a community-wide program, not just a school program.”
The first Community Coalition meeting is scheduled to take place Thursday, June 14 at 5:30 p.m..
In other news…
Superintendent Dr. John Gratto pointed out that the Sag Harbor School District was recently named 437 out of 1,000 schools in the United States, in a survey conducted by Newsweek/The Daily Beast. The survey ranked all participating schools according to a set of criteria which included test scores, AP/IB and SAT scores, graduation rate, college matriculation rate and AP courses offered per student.
Third grade teacher Bethany Deyermond and her student Valerie Duran introduced the board to the oral history project Duran recently completed.
After presenting a blank questionnaire to “an elder in the community,” Deyermond’s third graders took the completed form and turned those answers into what Deyermond referred to as “a living history of the person.”
Standing before board members with a microphone in one hand and a copy of her project in the other, Duran spoke about her great aunt, for whom she said “life was harder in almost every way.” Her aunt used to ride mules instead of drive cars, and she used to make tortillas by hand.
“Life is so much easier now,” Duran continued, “but definitely she valued things more.”