At Oxford Community Schools, new positions aimed at healing

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The Oxford school district will create a three-year recovery plan and hire a recovery coordinator to address student mental health needs in the wake of last year's mass school shooting, its superintendent announced this week.

Ken Weaver, who was promoted to superintendent on March 4, announced on Thursday Oxford Community Schools has created several new positions, including a recovery coordinator and an executive director of student services and wellness.

The new positions are to ensure students get the support and care needed to heal, said Weaver, who had been deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction since 2014. 

Weaver said the district is also adding two counseling positions to the high school and two family-school liaisons who will work with students to improve social and emotional behavior at the elementary school.

Messages are seen at Oxford High School on Thursday, December 30, 2021 for students shot and killed on the Oxford campus.

"Over the last three months, we have been working to establish a 'new normal' at Oxford High School," Weaver said in a statement. "It has been a difficult but rewarding process to see our students begin to recover and resume some of their previous activities and routines. We know that we have a long journey ahead of us. One that may take several years for some of our students."

On Nov. 30, four Oxford High School students were killed in the shooting: Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17. Six students and a teacher were wounded.

The school had about 1,650 students in classes the day of the shooting with about 100 teachers and staff, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The recovery coordinator will coordinate the mental health recovery efforts across the district, as well as coordinate trauma clinicians, therapy dogs, community outreach and student response, Weaver said.

This position is funded through a 3-year federal grant. The amount of the grant was not available Friday afternoon.

The student services and wellness job will oversee building-level mental health programming and personnel for all students. This includes guidance services, social work, social-emotional learning and restorative practices. The position is permanent, Weaver said.

The family-school liaisons, who will be social workers, will be funded with state and Medicaid money.

Two counseling positions will be added to the high school to lower caseloads to address the increased needs of students. These positions are in addition to the existing four positions at OHS. These positions are funded through a three-year federal grant.

Ken Weaver

Oxford parent Brian Cooper said on Friday he was encouraged to hear about the new positions.

"I feel they are necessary in the process of healing. I am concerned about whether or not there will be people interested or available to apply for the positions," Cooper said. 

Weaver said the district has received advice from five schools that have experienced similar trauma, guidance from mental health experts who specialize in addressing trauma and feedback from the community.

"We also know that we are going to have many ups and downs in the coming weeks, months and years as we experience events that will bring about strong emotions from our school community," Weaver said. "Through it all, we must continue to lean on each other and work together to strengthen our resolve to come through this tragedy."

Weaver said after the district's spring break, which is next week, he will announce the process for creating a recovery plan that will focus on safety, mental health, staff retention and wellness, social-emotional learning, community outreach and a permanent memorial process.

The district will seek parent and staff input through a survey and will host forums for high school students, parents, and staff.

"We will share the plan and host a town hall to receive feedback from our stakeholders," Weaver said.