Letter the editor – Brian Phillips

Challenges and Successes

The challenges that any young person faces today are far different than ever before.  There are many variables:  desensitization to overwhelming violence, acceptance of profanity as the norm, exposure to crippling family dysfunctions, vulnerability to unsettling TV programs, subjection to questionable music lyrics, and the list goes on and on.  These are not isolated to Greene County, nor any other part of Iowa or the United States.  This is the new regular.  This is our current state of affairs in our country and many parts of the world to boot.  

We have been surveying students for many years; since our Iowa Safe Schools Grant expired.  One of the areas that I’ve always kept my eye on was the mental health data.  I will provide data to the school board on this topic at the next board meeting.  Here, I will provide one negative area and one positive area of the mental health data.

The negative area was this student question: “During the past 12 months, did you ever feel so sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 weeks or more in-a-row that you stopped doing some usual activities?”  In 2014, the Iowa Youth Survey had this at 20 percent.  In 2016, our Iowa Safe School Survey had this at 26 percent and in 2017 that same survey had that percent at 31 percent!  So, out of 400 students that would be 124 students!

As we know, it is pretty hard to learn when one’s mind is focused on sadness or helplessness.  Hence, our challenges with student mental health is a big one.

The positive area was this student belief statement:  “There is at least one adult at school I could go to for help with a problem.”  In 2014, the Iowa Youth Survey had this at 84 percent.  In 2016, our Iowa Safe School Survey had this at 86 percent and in 2017 that same survey had that percent at 86 percent.  Naturally, we want to get this percentage even higher, so every student believes that he/she has at least one person in the building he or she could go to for help.

As we change up our student Advisory time for next year with Extended Learning, we will still have Mondays as Advisory.  Currently, around 60 percent of our 9-12 grade students wish to remain with their current advisor for next year.  Sophomores and junior classes are near 80 percent staying with the same Advisory.  This data is supportive of our efforts towards building positive relationships with students.

At Greene County High School, building trusting relationships and a safe culture for students will continue to be a focal point! There will always be challenges, but we will continue to work to reduce any occurrences.

Lastly, our school was recently recognized by U.S. News and World Reports in the bronze school rankings.  Our rank was determined by a comparison to statewide student achievement, the performance of disadvantaged students, graduation rates and college-readiness.  We achieved this honor several years ago and I am very glad our entire high school staff has made it happen again.

In this world of negative social media drama and gossip at a moment’s notice–steady yourself on solid ground in the knowledge that we have a great school district in place.

Brian Phillips, Greene County High School principal

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