Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Paget Hetherington
on September 9, 2021

This summer, eSchool News announced the K-12 Hero Awards program to honor educators who brought students through the COVID-19 crisis. The past two school years have truly been a test to educators and students alike, and we were proud to nominate two incredible education leaders for this program. For their continued efforts to promote student safety and well-being during two unpredictable school years, we nominated Jeff McCoy from Greenville County Schools and Dr. Philip Neufeld from Fresno Unified School District. 

When South Carolina closed school buildings across the state last year, Jeff McCoy and his team at Greenville County Schools sprang into action. Being unable to see students face to face made it nearly impossible to protect and support all of the students within the district, but McCoy and the senior leadership team recognized the importance of safeguarding students—especially in regards to depression and suicide. McCoy heightened the district’s digital safety efforts to ensure students were being taken care of. At the first sign of a struggle in the virtual environment, students in distress are identified, preventative action is taken, 1:1 mentors are appointed, and the OnTrack team intervenes to provide the necessary supports to ensure student safety and well-being.  

Dr. Philip Neufeld from Fresno Unified School District has helped his district develop strong data science capabilities over the years to be strategic and collaborative while driving improvements. He also recognizes just how vital it is for educators to think about mental health the same way they think about physical health. This proved to be especially true during the pandemic, as the district’s data showed just how much students were struggling with suicide, self-harm, domestic abuse, and other heartbreaking issues. By picking up on digital signals, Dr. Neufeld and Fresno USD were able to provide the necessary interventions to help support students through this particularly tough time.  

We are proud to share that both McCoy and Dr. Neufeld were selected as finalists for the K-12 Hero Awards. You can read more about these two education heroes in the K-12 Hero Awards eBook, which details all of the finalists and winners. We are thankful for educators who have gone above and beyond during this ongoing pandemic to ensure that students remain connected, engaged, and safe.  

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