Effectively addressing social emotional and mental health needs of students and school staff was a crisis prior to the pandemic. Now that we have fully returned to in-person learning, schools and programs need to be prepared to better address these needs, which for many is more significant based on exposure to trauma and social isolation during the Covid 19 pandemic. This session will share information from ED resources and highlight additional federal technical assistance resources that can be used to enhance and support State, district, and school efforts. We will also focus on how school staff can pull together to build positive relationships to have a nurturing and strong school community. Examples of effective practices from diverse school districts highlighted in the US Department of Education’s Return to School Roadmap will be shared.
Nicholas A. Gage, PhD, is a Senior Researcher in Special Education focused on advancing rigorous research and evaluation in special education. Dr. Gage earned a PhD in special education at the University of Missouri and completed an IES NCSERS Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Connecticut. His expertise is in supporting schools and districts in leveraging their data resources to best identify and develop effective and efficient systems of support for students’ academic and behavioral needs. Specific expertise includes Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), social emotional learning, research design and methodology, direct observation, single-subject research, and evaluation of special education programs and practices. Prior to joining WestEd, he was an Associate Professor of Special Education at the University of Florida, where he taught special education and research methods courses. He has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in many of the top-tier special education journals and over 200 conference presentations. He serves on nine editorial boards and is associate editor of Exceptional Children, the Elementary School Journal, Preventing School Failure, and Journal of Disability Policy Studies.
Dr. Keesha Blythe is an educator with over 20 years of experience in special education administration and teaching. Currently, Dr. Blythe serves as an Adjunct Professor for Trinity University and an Education Program Specialist for the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Dr. Blythe holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology from Howard University and a Master of Arts degree in Special Education and Human Development with an emphasis in Emotional/Behavioral Disorders from George Washington University. She also holds a Doctor of Education in Education Administration and Policy with a Legal Emphasis in Special Education Administration from Howard University.
Candace Moreno Ferguson serves as a training and technical assistance senior research associate with Synergy Enterprises supporting the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center, the Title IV, Part A Technical Assistance Center (T4PA Center), and she serves as the Task Lead for the Best Practices Clearinghouse. Mrs. Ferguson has over 20 years of experience in the public sector. She has worked with the U.S. Department of Education, state education agencies, and local governments on many initiatives including afterschool, dropout prevention, juvenile justice, educator evaluation and human capital management systems, among others. Mrs. Ferguson is passionate about working on behalf of at-risk youth and will receive a Doctorate in Education from Baylor University in May 2023, with her dissertation focusing on the organizational implementation of a trauma-informed approach in alternative education settings.