Worthington News

Program's first year

Dedicated staffer touts success in war on drugs, booze, bullying


School-based programs to curb drug abuse and bullying received full-time attention this past school year -- the first time the Worthington school district has assigned a single staff member to those topics since 1996.

"I am very honored and happy Worthington has stepped forward and said we need someone out there," Lori Povisil told the Board of Education on July 22.

Her title is coordinator of safe and drug-free schools, and she is the first person to hold that position in the district since Jerry Stephan stepped down after serving as the district's so-called "drug czar" from 1988 to 1996.

During her first year, Povisil re-created one of the more successful educational program started by Stephan and promoted some new ones as well.

InSight provides education about drug and alcohol abuse to students who violate the district's use rules. They could opt to attend the three two-hour sessions with a parent as a way to reduce the number of days they are suspended.

Students and parents are separated for the first part of the sessions and then return together to talk about what they learned.

Parents who participate often comment that the program should be available to all parents, Povisil said, adding that she hopes to make that a reality in coming years.

Povisil was the staff member who led students in forming the anti-bullying organization called One Leg At A Time several years ago. It continues to gain nationwide attention, with 13 students presenting at a national conference on bullying in Orlando this past school year.

"Every time you see these students present, it just gets you excited," she told the board.

Staff members from the district also visited several area counseling programs this year so they could better refer families for the specific resources they require, she said.

A program preparing sixth-graders for middle school also was piloted in 2012-13; Red Ribbon Week was observed; and students at Worthington Kilbourne High School started an organization called Students Taking A New Direction (STAND).

Board member Marc Schare asked how the effectiveness of the programs could be measured.

Jeff Maddox, director of innovation and school support, said he hopes the changes could be reflected in the annual cultural climate survey and that the community would become more involved in addressing the issues of drug and alcohol abuse.

"I have said it once, and I will say it again: This is not a school issue; it is a community-wide issue," Maddox said.

Board president David Bressman said re-establishing the drug and alcohol position was a high priority among board members during a goal-setting session two years ago, and he is pleased that the issues again are being addressed by a full-time staff member.

He encouraged Povisil to tap into available resources to support the programs and to let the board know what it could do to help.

"I think you're the right person in the right position at the right time," Bressman said.