Wayland schools may use mental health service

Members of Wayland Board of Education Monday night were told that students in the post-Covid era are struggling with mental and emotional issues, and they will decide at their April 10 meeting whether to sign a contract with a service that promises to help.

The board Monday night in a work session heard a presentation from Assistant Supt. for Instruction Theresa Fulk about the Clayful program based in Florida. The company’s web site describes it as, “Developer of text-based mental health coaching platform designed to give every student someone to talk to. The company’s platform connects students with mental health coaches, who engage in text-based, one on one coaching chats with kids, whenever kids reach out, enabling individual users as well as schools to bridge the gap to affordable mental health care and provide all kids with support.”

Assistant Supt. For Finance and Operations Patricia Velie told the board a state grant of about $130,000 is available and Wayland can sign a contract next month that will be good through July 2024.

Fulk said, “The kids are stressed and don’t have the coping skills… Where we’re at is that we can’t keep up… There is a shortage of counselors nationwide.”

She suggested that the Covid epidemic is being followed by a mental health crisis epidemic.

Jaclyn Egler, a “guaranteed substitute teacher” at the middle school and high school, added her daily experience to the argument.

“I hear a lot of amazing things in my job,” she said, “but I hear a lot of things that are sad. There are kids involved in nothing (such as athletics, clubs, the arts) and what can we do to support them?

“I have a lot of ideas and I’m willing to help… We have a major need here, and I don’t see it being addressed.”

Clayful finds a way to reach at-risk students via on-line texting in hopes of making contact before problems get out of hand. Some students aren’t comfortable taking with teachers, parents and counselors at first, so this gives them another option. Furthermore, the service is available all of the time.

Fulk said Plainwell Schools are using the program with good results, but it is the only district in Michigan involved.

Board Trustee Becky Hohnke said, “I’d like to see us implement this for all the kids in all the buildings.”

Janel Hott said, “We should have done this three years ago, or at least before the Covid pandemic.”

Board President Dan Cassini said he sees the need because “The people at home just aren’t doing the job,” but he added he preferred to wait until the April 10 meeting meeting to make a decision because two board members, Norm Taylor and Jeff Koon, were not present Monday.

Cassini also said, “The issue we’re fighting here is the lack of human interaction,” noting Clayful initially is based on Internet communication.

However, Theresa Dobry said, “I think this is a serious situation, so I don’t think we have another option (such as waiting two weeks).”

Clayful has offered the district its services free between now and next August, when the one-year contract officially begins.

But Cassini cautioned against acting too hastily in a “knee jerk” fashion.

“We walked into this room tonight not knowing much about this company at all,” he said, suggesting instead waiting until April 10 to take action.


  • Sounds like more outsourcing to corporate profiteers.

    Why not hire another counselor that can relate to our students and actually get to know them instead of outsourcing our community responsibilities to some faceless tech profiteering entity in Florida?

    Giving our kids a screen instead of an understanding, knowledgeable adult when they need someone sounds ridiculous.

  • Hello Mr. Gless,

    I can understand why this might be your perception. A few pieces of information that I’d like to provide for your consideration are:

    – There’s currently a serious shortage of mental health professionals available to hire. In fact, WUS has had a School Social Worker position (grant funded) posted since July that we were just able to fill (to start after spring break). The position will be housed at our Middle School and is being shared between two people to fill the need as we have not been able to fill the position with one person.

    – In addition to Clayful and the position referenced above, the district is hiring a district-wide, grant-funded, social worker to support our district students and families. This position starts after spring break.

    – WUS is fortunate enough to have a School Social Worker in each of our school buildings, we also have excellent Guidance Teams and Administrative Teams in our School Buildings. While these professionals work to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of all of our students, we know that there are simply some students who will not reach out for help in-person and might feel more comfortable initiating conversation with a person who they don’t see in the halls each and every day. Clayful coaches will encourage students to speak to someone in their lives about the challenges they are facing (parent, school staff, trusted adults, etc.) and provide a resource for students to reach out to when they have an immediate need.

    – Mrs. Velie and I are both very active in seeking out and applying for grants that help us to provide services to our school and community. Using grant funds to implement a solution that we feel will creatively address the needs of our students at no cost to the district’s general fund is a win, win for our students, schools, and community.

    I’m always happy to answer questions or have further conversations about this or any academic/instruction/student services programming that our district offers. As a school employee, a parent in the district, and a member of our community, I’m very proud of the programming that our schools provide and am always willing to listen to your feedback and provide you with greater information and context about programs that we offer.

  • I know some school counselors who are great at their job (and some who aren’t). Has WUS attempted to actively recruit counselors? If you pay them more than their current position, they will come here. Let’s make more of an effort to get *good* employees inside our school buildings.

    There is an empty paradigm prevalent in public ed that outsourcing funds to faceless parasitic ed profiteers is a good thing. It’s not. Not only would WUS not see Clayful(TM) employees (aka., unlicensed college kids working summer jobs) “each and every day in the hallways,” but no one from Wayland would *ever* see a human face from Clayful(TM). This is just shipping off tens of thousands of dollars to a faceless parasite in Florida in exchange for a phone app.

    WUS is not doing very well with its staffing “solutions.” No one wants to drive a bus because it’s not worth it. It’s that simple. Supt. Reeves should know that bus drivers at K-ville are full-time school employees who work for the school during the day during the bus runs, including mowing the school grounds. Why doesn’t Wayland do this? Not only would we solve our bus driver problem, but we would no longer be outsourcing our ground’s maintenance to a company like ProMow that doesn’t know what they’re doing and is killing off our trees. Outsourcing makes public school worse. People need to learn this.

    WUS needs to recruit a counselor, or expand its art programs to give kids more knowledgeable, empathetic adults in their lives. You guys made up multiple full-time positions of non-required electives to employ softball and football coaches, so WUS can do this too.

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