May 15, 2021

Four Oaks to provide Newton with consultation services

School board approves agreement to help district with social emotional behavior and health

Over the next three years, Newton Community School District will collaborate with Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services to provide professional support for teachers and integrate “trauma sensitivity into the educational system” to assure “every student will meet their full potential.”

On April 26, the NCSD Board of Education approved a professional learning agreement with Four Oaks to help the district meet its goals related to social emotional behavior and health. The agreement will persist through FY22-FY24. By the end of FY24, the district will pay a total of $76,000 for these services.

According to district documents, these expenses — $31,000 in FY22, $27,800 in FY23 and $17,200 in FY24 — can be financed through state professional development categorical funds.

NCSD Director of Special Education Jessica Ferguson said the prices decrease each year but the district is hoping to build “more internal capacity” because it can’t rely on an outside agency to support the schools over time. Four Oaks, she added, will help Newton build its own.

Newton Superintendent Tom Messinger said the agreement with Four Oaks is an example of the district’s need to plan ahead. Some of the “leg work” — such as social and emotional learning (SEL) and trauma training — has already been started, Messinger said.

Four Oaks has agreed to provide services at the district, execute a data sharing agreement and speak positively about the relationship between the organizations and “bring any concerns directly to the appropriate district contact in a timely manner to facilitate collaborative resolution of barriers.”

Ferguson said, “The contract that you have encompasses so much, (including) our district-wide professional learning for all teachers and staff members in the district. We’re even looking at ways to include our associates, our bus drivers, our food service — and all those other groups.”

A core group will be “running out ahead of the others” in order to start building an internal capacity, Ferguson added, which also includes those working in special education and the district’s behavior interventionists. Messinger credited WEST Academy Principal Tara Zehr for also working on the agreement with Four Oaks.

School board member Robyn Friedman is excited for the collaboration.

“It looks like a great thing for the district to continue to add to the great things that we’re doing,” Friedman said. “So thank you for pursuing this … And I like that we’re building capacity in our own district, as well. I’m excited for the work session that we have coming up in May that has something to do with this.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.