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Superintendent Rundle May Message On Mental Health Awareness Month, Celebrations, and Significant Events

Superintendent Rundle May Message On Mental Health Awareness Month, Celebrations, and Significant Events
Fred Rundle
Superintendent Rundle sitting at his desk

Dear Mercer Island Community,

Monthly, and sometimes more frequently, I meet with two very important people in my life: Peg, my professional counselor and Ian, my mental health counselor. Oh, and yes, how else can I possibly be at my best as a dad, husband, friend, sibling, superintendent, and person without also taking medication to help with ADHD and anxiety? There, I said it, I’m in therapy and taking medication to make sure I am at my best personally and professionally!

Maybe this is not the most traditional opening to a superintendent’s May message, but in the spirit of National Mental Health Awareness Month, I chose to open this way to help do my part to destigmatize and raise awareness about mental health. We do not need to be in crisis to work on all aspects of life.

Last month, King County Department of Health sent a letter to superintendents, physicians, mental health providers, and others to alert us of an uptick in youth suicide attempts and hospital mental health visits across King County. Our school district and partners at Mercer Island Youth and Family Services are not necessarily seeing the same trend in our community, but let me be very transparent, we are not immune from suicidal ideation or even suicide attempts amongst students in our schools and across Mercer Island. More so than ever, we are highly focused on both prevention and intervention.

In lockstep with MIYFS, our schools train staff, teach personal skills, and screen students throughout the year in a variety of ways, which include but are not limited to:

  • Second Step - our elementary schools use the Second Step curriculum framework to teach social and emotional skills. The lessons address topics across a very wide spectrum, but the goal is to give students the tools, resources, and confidence in age-appropriate ways to grow and develop.
  • SBIRT - for the past three years, Mercer Island School District has been in partnership with Seattle Children’s Hospital and King County’s Best Start for Kids grant called SBIRT: Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral for Treatment. The focus has been primarily 7th graders at IMS and 10th graders at MIHS. The researched based screener provides immediate feedback and identifies students who need immediate intervention or a check-in, students who we need to connect with for an informal check-in, and students who are regulated and not in need of intervention. The tool has been incredibly helpful identifying students in need, communicating with parents, and finding resources to support the student and family.
  • Forefront - In partnership with the work at UW, Mercer Island School District and Mercer Island Youth and Family Services have been building awareness amongst our students and training staff on the indicators of suicide and how to intervene. Forefront is a researched based initiative “focused on reducing suicide by empowering individuals and communities to take sustainable action, championing systemic change, and restoring hope.”

We hope through systemic initiatives like the three described above, we can prevent, monitor and intervene when students need us most. But it is also through our everyday work in the schools, promoting belonging, providing platforms for student voice, building relationships, and fostering a positive learning environment that we strive to reach the whole child so they can maximize their full potential.     

May Celebrations and Significant Events

Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month
Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month holds immense significance as it offers a platform to recognize, celebrate, and honor the diverse cultures, histories, and contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States. As superintendent of Mercer Island School District, acknowledging AANHPI Heritage Month provides an opportunity to foster inclusivity, appreciation, and respect within our school community. Over 27% of our students identify as Asian and half of the students who identify as two or more races (an additional 7%) report Asian as one of the races. By highlighting the rich traditions, languages, art, and customs of AANHPI communities, we not only validate the experiences of our students and families who identify as AANHPI but also promote cultural understanding and empathy among all students. Through education, awareness, and celebration, we can create an environment where every individual feels seen, valued, and empowered to embrace their heritage while embracing the diversity that enriches our school district.

Jewish American Heritage Month
Like for AANHPI families, Jewish American Heritage Month holds profound significance for our Jewish families. In my 15 years serving the Mercer Island School District, I have come to understand more deeply that Jewish is a cultural, ethnic, and national identity and not solely a religious one. To this point, in May we are afforded the opportunity to honor and celebrate the rich history, culture, and contributions of Jewish Americans to the fabric of our nation. By acknowledging the resilience, achievements, and cultural heritage of Jewish Americans, we not only affirm the identities of our Jewish students and families but also foster a sense of belonging and understanding within our school community. 

Cinco de Mayo - 5th of May
Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican celebration and recognition of the resilience shown during the Battle of Puebla during the war with France in the early 1860s. Despite being outnumbered and underequipped, the Mexican army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, achieved an unlikely victory over the better-equipped French forces. The Battle of Puebla was not strategically significant in the long term, it became a symbol of Mexican resilience and unity against foreign intervention. In Mexico, the holiday is primarily observed in the state of Puebla with parades, reenactments, and patriotic speeches. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo grew in popularity during the 1960s. 

Educator Appreciation Opportunities

  • National Teacher Appreciation Week is May 6-10- Mercer Island School District has a long tradition of making Teacher Appreciation Week a celebration of an entire staff. We are all teachers regardless of the job title we may have. Please join me in recognizing our bus drivers, counselors, paras, nurses, psychologists, therapists, administrators, admin assistants, maintenance workers, and of course teachers throughout the week!
    • May 7- Teacher Appreciation Day
    • May 8- School Nurse Day

Mother’s Day - Sunday, May 12
We have the opportunity to honor and celebrate moms or those in our lives who played a motherly role. I’m headed back to Colorado for the weekend. And while I will get a chance to spend Mother’s Day with my mom, which will be special for sure, I will be attending a funeral on Friday for a woman who was like a second mom to me growing up. Whether those special moms in our lives are with us today or not, this is a nice day to reflect on those who helped shape us.

Memorial Day - Monday, May 27
Later this month, during the unofficial start of summer and long weekend, let us take a moment to honor and remember the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Their courage, selflessness, and dedication have secured the freedoms and values we hold dear. Find someone who served the country and express our deepest gratitude and take time to mourn the loss of those who have given their lives in defense of our nation. Let us also extend our support and appreciation to the families of fallen heroes, whose sacrifice and resilience inspire us all. May we never forget their sacrifices.

Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Others, Take Care of Mercer Island. I hope by sharing how I work on my own mental health I model for others the importance of taking care of ourselves, so we can take care of others, and ultimately take care of our community.

Sincerely,

Fred Rundle

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Superintendent Rundle Recognizes Employees of the Year, Retiring Staff, Retiring SROs, and Service Milestones at Ceremony in MIHS Library

Mercer Island School District Superintendent Dr. Fred Rundle recognized the District’s Employees of the Year, Retiring Staff, teachers earning National Board certification, Former School Resource Officers (SRO) who are retiring from the Mercer Island Police Department, and MISD staff with a years of service milestone in a ceremony this evening in the MIHS Library

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