Welcome to the Merrimack School District
System of Care and Learning Supports
Welcome to the System of Care District Wellness Webpages!
A System of Care is all about harnessing the potential held by our community to support youth wellness. We hope you can use this site to learn more about how we can all work together to help children achieve their potential in school and beyond. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time with your questions, concerns or ideas for strengthening our System of Care!
Fern Seiden, MSW
Director of Student Wellness
Our Story: From “Soft Landings” to “Conditions for Wellness”
Our story began with a parent who, in 2014, met with the Merrimack School District Superintendent at that time, Marge Chiafery, to share the story of her daughter’s mental health challenges. Reflecting on what would have helped her daughter, this parent told Superintendent Chiafery that her child needed a "soft landing" upon returning to school. The confluence of this important conversation with the strong district advocacy for student supports for social-emotional wellness, lead by Julie DeLuca, then Assistant Principal of Thorntons Ferry School and John Fabrizio, then Director of Student Services, led to the formation of the Merrimack School District Mental Health Committee, charged with better understanding the problem and seeking potential solutions.
Six years later, we have changed our name to the System of Care and Learning Supports Committee to more accurately reflect our trasnformational systems level work serving ALL students and families. We recognize that while we still need to provide “soft landings” throughout all transitions within the school day and across the student experience, we also need to create “conditions for wellness,” the school environment and the opportunities provided within it that promote the social-emotional wellbeing that create strong, successful learners.
What is the Mission of the SoCaLS?
Our goal is to develop an integrated multi-tiered system of support (MTSS-B) that develops our capacity as educators to address mental health concerns that are barriers to learning and achievement and to increase the resiliency of all students.
What is a “System of Care and Learning Supports?
The heart of a “System of Care” is a belief that through an interconnected system of services and programs, and through quality relationships and collaboration guided by a set of evidence-based principles for best-practice, we can help students achieve success by creating the conditions and providing pathways that support social-emotional wellness. By working within a network of supportive systems, we can meet the challenges faced by youth and caregivers. Within this system, what is good for one is good for all, as all children thrive within schools attuned and responsive to wellness.
We are a "Trauma Informed" System. What does that mean?
We understand that traumatic stress or multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) may have far-reaching implications on a child's development and functioning. When we understand this, we recognize that children are doing the best they can, given their experiences and development. We recognize that frequent opportunities throughout the day for positive relationships, marked by empathy and authentic connection, can support the growth of healthy, resilient children.
Deb Barker: Director of School Counseling, Merrimack High School
Heather Barker: Director of Student Services
Hailey Fallon: School Counselor, Thorntons Ferry School
Cassie Duncan: School Counselor, Mastricola Elementary School
Julie DeLuca: Principal, Thorntons Ferry School
Kim Yarlott: Assistant Superintendant for the Merrimack School District
Laura Livie: Assistant Principal, Reeds Ferry School
Scott Riddell: Special Education Coordinator, Merrimack High School
Fern Seiden: System of Care and Learning Supports Coordinator
Dr. Bob Walwrath: School Psychologist
Bryan Young, School Counselor, James Mastricola Upper Elementary School
Protecting Youth Mental Health: U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory - 2021
This important report from the Surgeon General offers in depth and helpful information about the state of youth mental health and how we can respond as a community.