Martha’s Vineyard Public School wellness committees attend retreat

YMCA director of health and wellness Asil Cash, standing at left, gives school wellness committee members a workout. Leading the way at front, from left, are West Tisbury School physical education teacher Joe Schroeder, Tisbury School vice principal Sean Mulvey, and West Tisbury principal Michael Halt. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

A Wellness Retreat held Monday at the YMCA offered a healthy dose of inspiration, motivation, and perspiration for Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) wellness committees.

Thirty-eight representatives from school wellness committees Island-wide attended, including school nurses, administrators, physical education teachers, cafeteria directors, parents, and one student. They discussed a variety of health and nutrition topics, from physical activities and food choices at school, to the amount of time allotted for lunch and efforts to address substance abuse and emotional issues.

Schools are required to have wellness committees to develop and implement school wellness policies, in accordance with state and federal government mandates.

Although policies differ somewhat from school to school, the basic requirements include goals for nutrition education, physical activity and other wellness promotion activities; nutrition guidelines for all food available at the school; guidelines for school meals; and plans to measure how well a school meets policy goals.

Edgartown School nurse Nicole Barlett and Island Grown Schools program coordinator Noli Taylor were the co-chairmen of the daylong wellness retreat, which ran from 8:30 am to 2:24 pm.

“The idea is to jumpstart the committees in planning for the new school year, and hopefully make people excited and motivated about what they would like to do,” Ms. Barlett said in a phone conversation last week.

Unlike some retreats that involve mostly sitting and listening, the wellness retreat’s agenda provided a mix of cerebral and physical activities.

After discussion about the day’s goals, the group headed upstairs to the Y’s exercise room and crunched its way through an abdominal core floor class led by YMCA director of health and wellness, Asil Cash, with help from wellness coach Derek Andrade.

Everyone took part in the strenuous exercises with a few grimaces but mostly good humor and smiles, from teachers wearing sweat suits to administrators in dress shirts and ties. About an hour later they got their pulses racing with Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance workout.

As a reminder that participants should take care of themselves as well, Ms. Barlett conducted a drawing every 45 minutes to award a lucky winner with a “healthy” prize, such as a set of small dumbbells, a step for aerobic exercise, or a teapot.

At the start of Ms. Taylor’s presentation on food culture, she summed up the retreat’s purpose: “We’re all here because we care about kids on this Island, and we want them to have the best experience possible in their schools.”

Other speakers included Youth Task Force coalition coordinators Theresa Manning and Jamie Vanderhoop. They talked about their organization’s social norms campaign and about data from a youth risk behavior survey conducted several times in Island schools.

Amanda Cohen discussed services offered by Island Counseling Center, including trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy, a short-term method of treatment for children exposed to trauma. She also talked about self-care for teachers.

At the end of the day, each school wellness committee regrouped for discussion and strategic planning.