Superintendent Gary Smith has always had a strong focus on wellness within his own life. Among other things he is an avid cyclist and just completed his 21st Trek Across Maine in June. This past spring, Mr. Smith decided he wanted to foster this same focus within the district and launched the Superintendent’s Fitness challenge as a way to use friendly competition to encourage staff to get more active. “I was inspired talking to staff about how they have upped their game with fitness and their focus on health as a result of the fitness challenge,” he said. “So why not expand upon the success of the fitness challenge.”
And so the RSU 18 Wellness Program planning group has been hard at work this summer. This volunteer group began meeting the very day school got out, with the intent of developing an Employee Wellness Program. The group’s goals center on three aspects of wellness: mind, body, and culture, and are led by the vision statement of “Inspiring balanced lifestyles.” The intent is to focus on ways to help educators, administrators, and support staff reduce stress levels and increase physical fitness while cultivating a culture based on positivity and collaboration within the district.
With input from other staff members, the group has already come up with a myriad of incentives and activities to put more focus on complete wellness throughout the district. These activities range from daily or weekly workout opportunities and wellness discussions to more elaborate activities incorporated into professional development days during the school year.
Ideas include ways to encourage healthy eating and exercise, workshops to focus on stress reduction or financial wellness, and the creation of a wellness classified in the staff portal to provide information on health resources and activities in the area. The group plans to offer multiple opportunities for all staff to get involved in a wide variety of wellness activities and events, and do so at little cost to the district. The group is also developing a wellness focus for the opening staff workshop and has launched the RSU 18 logo contest. The contest is a way to involve all staff in the process of coming up with the perfect design to show that “RSU #18 respects and values employee health and wellbeing.”
A greater focus on wellness could offer a number of benefits to the district, according to Mr. Smith. A healthier, happier staff and overall culture could lead to lower insurance rates, fewer sick days, greater staff retention, and improved student outcomes. The benefits of programs like this also extend beyond the workplace to have a positive impact on employees personal and family health. “As I get ready to move on I felt like this could be a wonderful gift for our staff,” said Mr. Smith, “the gift of wellness and healthy living.” He hopes to see as many staff members as possible get involved and improve their own health and fitness levels. He also stated that he would ultimately like to expand the wellness incentive to include students and the community as a whole.