Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 2 – 2020-21
Healthy Staff, Healthy Schools,
Successful Students
Kaiser Permanente helps schools focus on staff wellbeing
Jill Patnode
Thriving Schools Program Manager, Kaiser Permanente of Washington
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture, Planning with Data, Aligning Curriculum, Improving Instruction
What if we approached staff wellbeing with the same intentionality, rigor, and cross-departmental planning that we do for our students?
Could we improve staff attendance and job satisfaction, retain staff at higher rates, and ultimately improve student academic and social, emotional outcomes?
Several districts in Washington are finding out. ESD189 (supporting Mount Vernon and Sedro Wooley), along with Bellingham, Highline, Kent, North Thurston, Tenino school districts were awarded Kaiser Permanente’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) Foundational and Tier 2 & 3 grants and are finding out. One component of the grant requires, and funds, the development of a data driven, multi-year strategic plan to support staff wellbeing.
Each district’s staff wellbeing plan is informed by the results of the staff wellbeing domain in the Resiliency in the School Environment (RISE) District or School Index. The Index is a free screening tool that identifies essential components and related resources for staff wellbeing and social-emotional health policies and practices. While some of the grantees have completed all 40 questions in the five safe and supportive school domains (Universal-Tier 1 preventions, Targeted Tier 2 preventions, Staff Wellbeing, School Systems and Collaboration), others are focused specifically on staff wellbeing.
The overarching theme is that educating staff on how to be trauma-informed is not enough. Staff must also have the opportunity to learn and practice actions they can take to foster their own resilience in an effort to combat the compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, and burnout that too many unknowingly experience.
The overarching theme is that educating staff on how to be trauma-informed is not enough.
In addition to using funds to support training by regional experts, districts are accessing free, online resources from the Alliance for Healthier Generation’s Action Center, and Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools (including Workforce Health Consultants and Educational Theater) to achieve their goals. Recently, in collaboration with the evaluation team, districts are beginning to focus professional development and support utilizing a MTSS framework to provide tiered mental health and wellbeing supports for their adult population. Districts are launching innovative professional development activities, including on-demand classes, for all staff to address individual and collective mental health and wellbeing activities. Examples include:
  • Creation of affinity groups for staff self-care professional development including specific groups for food service staff and staff who are parents (North Thurston).
  • Hosting monthly “Fillin’ Your Cup” Zoom meetings (based on the book “How Full is Your Bucket,” by Tom Rath) in which mental health self-care strategies are shared and school counselors offer additional support to individuals who identify as needing help. In addition, the district has set aside time for staff to (socially-distant) connect with each other through planned activities (Tenino School District).
  • Partnering with Washington Wellness to offer district specific self-care activities through the School Employees Benefits Board (SEBB) Program’s SmartHealth wellness program, administered by the Health Care Authority. These activities allow staff to earn points towards a reduction in their annual medical plan deductible (contact
  • Creating a district commitment to create time and space for the implementation of staff self-care strategies and supporting the need to “take things off staff’s plate” to make room for adult wellness (Highline School District).
  • Creation of a framework to identify the ongoing needs of staff and using that information to tailor ongoing staff wellness and professional development activities (ESD 189).
If you would like more information on any resources or activities mentioned in this article, please contact Jill Patnode, Thriving Schools Program Manager at Note that all AWSP members have access to the Kaiser Permanente e-learning course and resources on Creating a Culture of Wellbeing.
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Washington Principal | Volume 2 – 2020-21