The Olentangy Local School District believes non-academic barriers to learning can impact student engagement and success.

Aside from cognitive and learning disabilities, “non-academic barriers is kind of a big umbrella,” said Allisha Berendts, who was hired as the district’s first-ever supervisor of student well-being.

Such barriers include mental health, behavioral and family-related issues, she said.

The Olentangy school district is among the wealthiest in Ohio with a median household income of $111,183, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But barriers occur regardless of socioeconomic status when a child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); has a hard time behaving in the classroom; or is witnessing parents getting a divorce, Berendts said.

The professional clinical counselor plans to create a comprehensive plan that would help Olentangy staff to support students’ non-academic needs. Berendts will see what the district now provides to students in within that vicinity including its school liaisons, nurses and school counselors and its drug and alcohol intervention program.

“I’m assessing all those areas,” she said. Berendts then hopes to create programs that fill in any service gaps.

The district now has three school community liaisons, which Berendts will supervise, and who work flexibly with administrators and parents, sometimes at their homes. Berendts hopes to see the district hire more liaisons when the fourth high school opens in 2018.

She will be responsible for implementing, evaluating and supervising district programs regarding non-academic barriers.

“Working with children and families is my passion, and I am thrilled to get the opportunity to combine my background in both education and counseling to be able to help break down non-academic barriers of students here at Olentangy,” Berendts said.

Berendts is a doctoral candidate in Ohio State University’s counselor education program and is working on her graduate interdisciplinary specialization in disability studies. She earned a master’s degree in clinical counseling from the University of Dayton. Her experience includes working with a range of age groups, families in community mental health, private practice, family homes and school settings.

Berendts said one of the biggest challenges of her position is to overcome the stigma of taboo subjects such as alcohol and drugs with families.

Berendts currently resides with her husband and 14-month-old son in the Olentangy Local School District.

“I’m very proud to work in the area I live,” she said.


By Brandon Klein

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Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.