During her inaugural address to the Westbury community on Sept. 23, newly appointed Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tahira Dupree Chase made mention of Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams, a new addition to the staff. She spoke highly of her credentials in the field of psychology, which would serve the district well.
It did not take long for Dr. Williams to live up to such expectations as she presided over the first in a series of parent workshops convened on Oct. 26 and 27 via Zoom. In introducing Dr. Williams, Superintendent Chase shared an excerpt from her bio, which included her being a career educator and mental health clinician and serving as a professor of psychology at the City University of New York. She also held numerous positions in private and public education and is a regular contributor to nationally aired programming as an expert on mental health issues and social and emotional wellness. She has appeared on Fox 5, ABC TV, Good Morning America, GMA 3, and multiple radio and social media platforms. Dr. Chase also listed her various licensure and membership in professional bodies.
The presentations was named “The Warning Signs of Childhood Depression and Anxiety,” and delved particularly into such manifestations in light of the COVID 19 pandemic; its impact and aftermath both on children, parents and educators. The first presentation focused mainly on grades 1 through 5 while the second concentrated on the upper grades, but both carefully examined the nuances, subtle and overt psychological changes that connected the dots and made sense of otherwise unexplained behaviors.
Dr. Williams was very careful in explaining the difference between anxiety and depression and the importance of identifying the symptoms since it is crucial in knowing when to seek help; the difference between feeling and emotion, which require discipline and which do not. She spent time talking about the crucial area of grades 1-5, middle childhood, and the challenges that this particular stage carries with it. Williams commented on the social and emotional well being of our adolescents; the impact of separation anxiety as it related to students going back into the classroom after the lockdown. She commented on the 21 percent increase in inappropriate behavior in the months of September and October attributed to mental health challenges, per stats provided by law enforcement.
There are so many areas that Dr. Williams touched on and carefully and thoroughly explained that it is impossible for this brief summary to do any degree of justice to, so I implore readers to visit the school district’s website, www.westburyschools.org and click on the Parent Workshop tab for recording of both webinars. It is important to state that throughout the presentations Dr. Williams stressed the importance of the parent/school connection and reminded parents that there are services available for parents and students and such services should be utilized.
Dr. Chase commented on the relatively low number of participants that tuned in to both webinars; 27 on the first night and 18 on the second in a district of over 4,000 students. I contend that more people were trying to get on but gave up in frustration because I almost did. The IT department needs to make it much easier for users to access. How about a one-step prompt that takes one directly to the discussion?