Nationally known speaker and happiness coach Kim Strobel (third from right) dances with teachers and staff Monday on the stage of the Warsaw Community High School Performing Arts Center during the Warsaw Community Schools’ all-employee kickoff to the 2019-20 school year.  Photo by David Slone
Nationally known speaker and happiness coach Kim Strobel (third from right) dances with teachers and staff Monday on the stage of the Warsaw Community High School Performing Arts Center during the Warsaw Community Schools’ all-employee kickoff to the 2019-20 school year. Photo by David Slone
The overall theme for Warsaw Community Schools’ 2019-20 school year is “WCS Wellness,” and several announcements regarding WCS employee wellness were made Monday during the all-employee kickoff to the 2019-20 school year.

Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert said, “When we look at wellness as an organization and as a whole, we need to start looking at it as a movement, not a fad. And that’s our goal.”

He then gave the WCS educators and staff a couple of updates with a couple of declarations and goals.

“Because I think goals, just as they are in the classroom, are really important when other people know about them because it helps us be able to reach those goals and helps us be able to take those next steps,” Hoffert said.

First, under physical wellness, he said there will be a competition with students to name the yet-to-be-named student activity center at the high school.

“I’m really excited about this. I’m excited for our students, I’m excited for our community and I’m excited for our employees. Because although we have a soft opening that’s going on (today), our grand opening is going to be in October,” he said, noting there’s work still progressing on the front entryway and classroom space.

As the SAC nears completion, Hoffert said WCS wants to start offering classes at the school in the evening, whether it be yoga or time for walking around the track.

“We want to be able to offer a fitness facility for our employees that they can be able to use throughout this. Because that physical wellness is so critically important to what we do every single day inside the classroom,” he said.

Hoffert said WCS opened a health clinic about 1-1/2 years ago with Kosciusko Community Hospital and Lutheran Health Network. It’s for anyone on WCS’s insurance plan.

“And with that health clinic, Warsaw Community Schools covers the cost of the visit, the cost of prescription coverage, the cost of blood draws and also x-rays that take place. If you go there, you will not get a bill,” he said.

One complaint WCS heard about the health clinic was its hours and it wasn’t at a convenient location.

Hoffert said, “So we’ve been working on it this summer. I’m excited to announce that we have a partnership now with Cardinal Services and the county. We are moving our clinic. It’s still going to be under the KCH and Lutheran Health Network umbrella, but it’s going to be right downtown. It’s going to be 40 hours a week. It’s going to expand services, expand prescriptions and even include such things as MRIs inside of it.”

He said WCS is excited about this advancement that it’s able to offer.

“... Doctors’ bills are huge today. Prescription bills are huge. If you even go to your family doctor and you have a prescription, please check it out with our clinic and see if it’s offered there. Because you can take that prescription right to our clinic and get it filled for free,” Hoffert said.

He then spoke about health checks being important.

“If we can catch heart disease before it gets into the final stages, it is a huge impact on your longevity, on your health. This year  we’re going to start a health and wellness screening that’s going to be coming to every one of your schools and every one of your departments,” Hoffert said, encouraging everyone on the WCS insurance plan to get a blood screening. If they get it, WCS will contribute $100 to their Health Savings Account.

“We believe that these are life-saving measures when it comes to health and wellness for our employees and for our community,” he said.

Under emotional wellness, Hoffert said WCS has “a lot of different emotional health things that are available.” He reminded everyone that speaking to someone about their issues is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

WCS has an agreement with the Bowen Center for its students and employees, and Hoffert encouraged the employees to take advantage of it. It is anonymous, a way to talk to someone and free of charge to employees and students.

“As we talk about social emotional health and wellness, we’re going to be doing a lot of work this year with our students,” Hoffert said, but employee emotional health and wellness is important.

Then under financial wellness, he talked about a couple of WCS’s partnerships. He said there are some exciting grants in the works right now.

“Our student activity center would not be possible without the financial support of the K21 Foundation and 1st Source Bank. TCU, their sponsorship, and you might see it’s called the TCU Tiger Den, they give us dollars every year that can be able to go into academic causes that we can do that we wouldn’t be able to do inside our normal funding mechanisms,” he said.

Hoffert said WCS is about to announce another funding level from Zimmer Biomet.  The orthopedic company provides WCS with a STEM coach every year.

“And this year they’re also going to be providing us with a number of STEM mini-grants for your classrooms. More information is going to be coming out about that here in the coming days,” he said.

Still in the works, Hoffert said some community organizations wanted to start funding teacher supplies in the classrooms. He said he hoped it would be worked out in the next couple of weeks, and teachers should keep their receipts.

WCS recently hosted the Global Leadership Summit. GLS came to WCS at the beginning of the summer and said it wanted to do “something special” for teachers to encourage them. GLS came up with the idea to come to the schools and do some special “lunch and learns” throughout the year to help teachers meet state-mandated externships. It’s also going to provide the online resources from this summer’s Global Leadership Summit to every WCS educator. More information is to come.

WCS also is starting a staff attendance recognition pilot program this year. Information is forthcoming. Hoffert said, “If we can be able to reward people for being here and having strong attendance, we want to be able to give that reward.”

The next announcement Hoffert made he called a “very ambitious step” for the school corporation.

The last couple of years WCS has been talking about efficiencies within its schools. He said WCS has been doing a lot of “catch-up” work with its buildings with work to do.

“We also have some ambitious goals here for the next few years that are coming up, and to be honest with you, the first wave of it, you might not ever see because we’re talking about a lot of things like HVAC, paneling on the side of the buildings that is falling off. We’re talking about a lot of those things that have a price tag to them but that create an efficiency inside of our school, and with that efficiency is something that we can put back in the classroom,” he said.

State funding dollars coming to WCS will not help WCS reach its goal, though it is helping, he said. It needs to think outside of the box. “And if we’re going to make this profession a lifelong profession, and then the profession that it deserves, we have to take some of those next steps,” he said.

The goal WCS, along with the Warsaw Community Education Association, has is to have a new teacher salary of over $40,000 by the 2021-22 school year.

“We believe that is something we need to do for the profession,” he said. “... Unless we put those goals out there, we’re not going to reach them.”