Sherman Principal Discusses Issues Facing Students With Rotary Club

Bryna Booth, Sherman Central School District principal, pictured at right, was introduced as the guest presenter by Mary Swanson, Club President-Elect, at the Feb. 6 Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville meeting in Westfield. Booth shared personal stories about some of the students, the effects of poverty on them, and what she and others in this school district are doing to assist the students and help them to succeed. Submitted photo

Homelessness, mental health issues, domestic matters, drug and alcohol abuse and lack of basic needs being met were some of the examples cited by Bryna Booth, Sherman Central School District Principal, as affecting student achievement, in the program she presented during the Feb. 6 meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville. The session was held at The Parkview in Westfield. Club President Janese Berkhouse presided at the meeting, and Club President-Elect Mary Swanson introduced Booth.

Without sharing students’ identities, Booth described real challenges that students of poverty face, and how she and other Sherman CSD staff work to address the issues so that students have improved school attendance and are better prepared to learn.

Booth noted that approximately 56 percent of Sherman students qualify for free and reduced lunches, which means that the total weekly household income of these students is below $430. Students with disabilities account for 18% of the student population. She stated that 62 percent of the students are considered as being economically disadvantaged.

“Our job in the school setting is to provide order and a quality education,” Booth said. She continued, “Students are expected to handle adult issues without having the adult ability to deal with them.” She then related personal stories of working with school staff, social service agencies and others to address the various challenges in the students’ lives, such as homelessness, incarcerated parents, insufficient food, lack of utilities, abuse and sexual abuse, and lack of basic needs, such as proper clothing, eyeglasses and more, being met. When students’ homes have no running water, the students are permitted to shower in the school.

Booth explained that a triage approach is used in the Sherman CSD to address students’ needs. She mentioned the free “Wildcat Weeks” five-week summer session for 65 students that offers two hot meals, and educational and recreational activities, including field trips. There is also the free “Wildcat Den” program during the school year that provides 35 students with one meal and an after-school program. In addition, the district has created the new position of parent liaison to assist families.

“My team and I give everything we have,” Booth stated. “I know that we are addressing the various needs of our students, since our students do very well, in spite of all of their challenges and obstacles. The graduation rate for Sherman CSD students is 96 percent. Our students work hard every day. Our staff works hard every day to meet the emotional, basic and academic needs of the students. The result is successful, concerned graduating students who will make our world better.”

The Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville commends Booth and others in the Sherman CSD for their efforts with assisting students and their families and with helping students to attend and remain in school, and to earn their high school diplomas.