Return to Headlines

Learn why Stagg's PPS Team earned Those Who Excel

The Amos Alonzo Stagg High School Pupil Personnel Services Department was recently recognized with a Those Who Excel Meritorious Service Award from the Illinois State Board of Education. Those Who Excel recognizes teachers, administrators, teams, volunteers, and school support personnel for their extraordinary contributions to education across the state.

The Department developed a holistic approach to address the needs of the community during the pandemic. They focused on students and their families, providing everyday basic necessities, along with social-emotional supports. This approach was so inclusive and successful, it became a model across the district. 

At Stagg High School, more than 35% of students were considered low-income before the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who already struggled to meet the financial needs of their families were hit the hardest. Likewise, families who never needed support, found themselves struggling. This, coupled with the enormous social and emotional crisis that students and families experienced, made for a perfect storm resulting in an entire community in crisis.

Stagg Principal Eric Olsen said, “I cannot imagine having experienced or worked with a more deserving group of individuals. They are exceptional on a yearly basis. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, their creativity, empathy, and laser-focused commitment to assist our students and their families in every facet of everyday life can be described as nothing less than exemplary.”

Stagg’s PPS Team model included a number of key components.

A “Coping Center” website afforded students and families resources for mental health support, a virtual calming room, coping skills strategies, mindfulness exercises, racial equity and social justice support, substance and alcohol abuse assistance, LGBTQ support along with a variety of other resources. Additionally, the website allowed students and families to sign-up for and attend virtual/video individual and group counseling sessions. This web-based model became the standard in District 230, adopted by its two other high schools. In total, this virtual model affected more than 7000 students and their families across the district.

Charger Care is a fund for direct monetary contributions from staff, but also an in-school food bank supported by 300 staff members. With food and funds collected, the PPS Team worked directly with families in need and delivered food and necessities, food gift cards and direct support for utility bills. This was made possible by the connections that the PPS Team made with families. The  PPS Team also supported students and families with mental health kits, delivered directly to families to provide the emotional support that often accompanies families in crisis. This holistic approach to support, mind, body and spirit quickly developed into a model supported by the entire district.

Academic Support for At-Risk Students, supported by PPS staff who met virtually with students to provide academic and SEL support, while creating a two-way communication link between school and home. As mitigations eased and direct contact increased, the PPS Team provided on-site, after-school support for students to address learning loss and work with students who were failing courses. This program, developed to provide a mentored support and communication platform between classroom teachers, students and parents, met considerable success, moving at-risk students from failing courses to passing courses, ensuring on-track completion of graduation requirements while empowering students to take control of their academic success. This program was made available to students who were on site at school during the school day and those who were fully remote, oftentimes at home supporting their family by working or providing child care. The number of fully remote students who came to the after-school program is a reflection of the trusted support that our students feel our PPS Team provides.

For Denise Gonzalez, Class of ‘21, the pandemic took a toll on her motivation and financial concerns were significant. She said, “If it wasn't for the social workers, school counselors, and deans, my family and I would probably still be out without electricity. No amount of words will ever show how much we appreciate Stagg and everything they did and continue to do for my family. I really am so thankful to be a part of a community that sticks together and stands with you.” 

“The work of Stagg’s PPS Team cannot be understated. This programming will not fade with the pandemic, but will continue to provide the gold standard to be improved upon for years to come.

We are proud of the amazing members of the Stagg PPS Team and the work they continue to provide for the rich and diverse Stagg Family,” Olsen added.