Submitted by Debbie Boerbaitz, LCSW, PPSC, School Social Worker
Otay Elementary is a K-6, Title 1 Public School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, with a population of approximately 610 students. We have received distinction as a California Distinguished School, National Blue Ribbon School, and were recipients of the Title 1 Academic Achievement and Excellence in Urban Education Awards. Our school-wide positive climate programming includes the PeaceBuilder program; implementing Bullying Prevention inspired by the Olweus model1; Peace Patrol; and implementing the Second Step (Committee for Children) curriculum in classrooms and counseling sessions.
Last year we embarked on a new journey of introducing our students and families to what we named the “Otay Traits to be Great”. Drawing on the KIPP Schools2 programming which derives from the positive psychology research of Dr. Angela Duckworth3, and Dr. Martin Seligman4 and Dr. Chris Peterson5,the Otay traits are comprised of “non-traditional”, essential character traits that we believe will help prepare students to not only complete high school and go on to college, but graduate from college and find success in employment, in relationships, and in the community.
During the first year, we introduced the staff, students and families to the traits: Safety, Self Control, Zest, Grit, Curiosity, Social Intelligence, Gratitude, Flexibility and Optimism. We developed weekly student read dialogues, describing the traits and how they can be understood and applied in the school and home environment. This year, we continue to integrate the teaching of the traits by developing bi-monthly webcasts, created by students for students, and by holding classes in the Otay Community Garden. These webcasts will enrich the students’ understanding and application of the traits into their own lives by incorporating real life events and situations. In addition, the traits have been interwoven in the Common Core curriculum and focus, bringing explicit understanding to the terms and concepts.
The School Social Worker’s role at a school includes participation in an educational team. In this case, our school developed a Positive Behavior Committee comprised of the School Social Worker, Teachers, the Principal and Parents. We envisioned developing programming to enhance our students understanding of themselves within a larger community, and developing essential character traits to provide the inner resources to interface with and overcome adversity and societal barriers to academic and personal success.
Otay Elementary has committed to employing a credentialed School Social Worker for the past 13.5 years. The position is funded by categorical funding. This commitment has also enabled the school to benefit from the additional services of up to four SDSU Graduate Social Work Interns each school year, who actively participate in supporting and promoting this progressive programming.
We welcome connecting with educators, mental health professionals and schools doing similar work, with the purpose of developing a collaborative network.
To contact us, please email Debbie Boerbaitz at Deborah.Boerbaitz@cvesd.org or Mr. Rosario Villareal, School Principal, at Rosario.Villareal@cvesd.org.