The new superintendent was not messing around when it came to the topic of health.
Spencerport Central School District Superintendent Dan Milgate made it clear from Day 1 of the 2017-18 school year that this was going to be a year that the 775 staff members were strongly encouraged to get in better shape.
He challenged them with a “3 4 ME” initiative, and during his speech he likened the program to directions received on an airline flight. You put your oxygen mask on first and then you’re able to help others.
He says all of this wellness and health talk was important because students need their teachers, custodians, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, administrators and school-related professionals to be healthy and ready to go.
Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Jamie Lissow says, "Dan has encouraged staff to make time for themselves and pursue the activities that make them happy. This will, in turn, foster a healthier and happier work environment.
Dan has modeled this through his own participation in a 50-mile bike ride last spring and his commitment to swimming on a regular basis.
Milgate, who has worked for the district as a teacher and administrator for more than 20 years, co-chaired the Wellness Committee with Lissow last year. In his tenure he has stressed that taking care of yourself doesn’t just mean a healthy diet and exercise. He mentioned the value in being happy and satisfied with yourself and getting in those visits to friends, reading books or planning the vacation you keep putting off. He wanted each employee to set three goals and go after them. He urged them to feel good about achieving these goals and be as healthy, upbeat and energetic as possible for the students and themselves.
“We are pleased that our staff see the value and importance of taking care of their wellness needs,” Milgate says.
Since the challenge, a survey was taken and nearly 90 percent of respondents set personal goals. More than 50 percent mentioned diet adjustments as one of their top goals along with time with family and friends, walking, reading and taking vacations.
“It was nice to see that spending time with family was one of the most important goals,” Milgate says. “This is a noble, yet demanding career that requires us to keep things in balance.”
Perhaps inspired by Milgate’s words, hundreds of staff members took part in a fall walking challenge, which included teams from all six of the district’s schools, as well as teams from the district office, facilities and the Board of Education.
Staff members walked together at lunch or after work. Steps were recorded through bicycling, hiking, running and fitness classes.
While the six-week program was deemed successful, Lissow thinks a change in season next school year might bring out bigger numbers.
"We are always looking at new ways to engage our staff and try new activities," she says. “Last year, we did a hydration challenge and had some fun. We also introduced a stars staff recognition program. We had over 130 staff recognitions.”
The hydration challenge saw more than 50 percent staff participation, and participants were able to join a Water Infusion Club in which water was flavored in a way to make it more enjoyable to drink: Some of the cafeteria workers sliced vegetables and fruit and put them into the water.
There were charts and bingo games that turned the task of drinking water into a competition. Staff members were also encouraged to download an app for a reminder to drink water and track the intake of fluids.
Lissow says a health and wellness program had been in place for the district's 3,500-plus students, so it was a good time to extend these efforts to staff.
“It started last year when our Wellness Committee met in the fall,’’ she says. “We reviewed our goals for students — nutrition and physical activity — then we explored our goals for staff wellness and identified opportunities to focus more on these efforts."