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After helping lead a very successful effort to provide emotional and mental health support for WPS students, Dr. Melisa Sandoval is now turning her attention to WPS staff.
Sandoval has joined the Human Resources team as the new Director of Wellness.
“In our work with adolescents, especially during the pandemic, it became obvious that teachers and staff need help too,” she said. “If adults aren’t supported, we aren’t going to be much good for our students.”
Sandoval calls the position, “a new challenge and opportunity” that will help the district to increase employee retention and prevent burnout. She says the evidence is clear that students’ well-being is closely connected to the health of adults who support them. “Employee wellness is a critical component of organizational climate and culture. It can impact everything from performance to relationships to motivation.”
“Her passion for promoting healthy lifestyles and her innovative approach to staff wellness programming will undoubtedly positively impact our school community,” said Chief of Staff Kirk Leday who also heads the Human Resources Department.
In her new role, Dr. Sandoval will host training programs to help leaders identify their staff's needs and help all employees learn about the resources available to them. For instance, the district has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers free short-term counseling to help employees address a wide range of issues from anxiety to substance abuse to financial issues. “For some people, there is still a stigma about seeking help and we are working to overcome that,” Sandoval said. “This is the ideal opportunity to work with people who are not normally seen or heard.”
The first steps for Sandoval are to form a District Wellness Committee and to reach out to department heads to explain her role in the district. She is a certified instructor in “Mental Health First Aid” meaning she can teach others how to offer that first, critical level of support. “Sometimes it’s about kindness or simply a willingness to listen,” she said.
As for students, Sandoval says the district is in a good place in dealing with their mental health needs. WPS has one of the highest ratios in the state of school-based mental health professionals to students. In 2022 the district was awarded a Project Aware Grant to build integrated school-based health service systems. WPS is one of just six school districts and one tribal education agency in Colorado to receive the grant.
“My new role is about meeting needs as they evolve,” said Sandoval.