Group chooses former judge to lead educational improvement push

Community Council has chosen Robert Zagelow to lead the push to implement its recommendations after a lengthy study.

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WALLA WALLA -- A local group that identifies and studies problems facing the region has chosen a retired judge to spearhead its efforts to improve education for the region's children.

Community Council selected Robert Zagelow for the task, according to a news release.

"The focus of Community Council's study was enhancing educational attainment for our region's children," Zagelow said in a news release. "In addition to addressing the educational component, mental health and housing issues surfaced as contributing impediments. The challenge for our Task Force will be to identify and implement processes that can meaningfully address those issues."

Zagelow said that while progress may not be easy or quick, failure to take action will help ensure problems continue.

The study group's recommendations included:

Making quality early learning opportunities available for all children by collaboratively creating, funding and implementing a school readiness framework; by increasing availability of child care services for infants and children with special needs and by increasing available weekend and evening care; and by teaching Spanish-speaking students in their native language to help build verbal competency.

Increasing school attendance by prioritizing and supporting programs which result in consistent attendance; by developing and promoting learning environments outside of school and opportunities that encourage positive relationships between students and adults in the community; and by providing opportunities for all children to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Enhancing effective parenting through parenting skills classes and increased awareness of resources, including programs for teen mothers and fathers.

Supporting public schools' efforts to help residents acquire English and Spanish language skills.

Including age-appropriate, comprehensive reproductive health education as part of public schools' basic curriculum.

Improving availability of and access to mental health services in schools and communities by recruiting a pediatric psychiatrist, by providing youth inpatient mental health services, and by improving access to public funded mental health services.

Extending the use of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) model for understanding the effects of childhood trauma.

Emphasizing prevention as the first step toward mental health treatment.

Increasing the capacity of the region's foster care system to accept children and teens.

Coordinating efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing.

Increasing regional awareness of and access to educational, mental health and housing services.

For more information or to participate in the implementation effort, contact Julie Reese, Community Council executive director, at 540-6720 or julie@wallawallavitalsigns.org.

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