More dogs proposed for Waren County School District

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Warren County School District PAWSitive Support Program K-9 Hero visits with school board members Kevin Lindvay (left) and Arthur Stewart at Monday night’s committee meetings.

The PAWSitive Support program is working out and more dogs could soon be on the way.

At Monday’s meeting of the Warren County School District curriculum, instruction, and technology meeting, Director of Pupil Service Dr. Patricia Mead gave an update on the pilot program.

She said the two facility dogs — Pepper and Hero, who both attended the meeting — had been very successful and were meeting the proposed goals of the program of improving school climate and enhancing social and emotional services.

She said surveys with over 1,500 responses indicated strong support for the program.

“The students, parents, and teachers were all surveyed at the beginning of the school year,” Mead said. “75 percent of students and 78 percent of staff believe they have improved the school climate. 50 percent of students and 53 percent of staff believe they have enhanced the social emotional aspect of the school community.”

Sample comments from the surveys include:

“When a therapy dog is in the building, there is a generalized increase in motivation and positivity. The dogs bring joy to many people. I have also seen the dogs used as tools to help motivate students and alleviate frustrations.”

“The dogs provide a distraction to the mind of an anxious teen like myself and I would love to have them visit me from time to time.”

“I think the dogs could make a difference if there was one at each school. Our school does not see a dog very often, so I don’t think the program is successful here. More frequent visits would help. The kids really do enjoy seeing the dogs when they are here.”

“They have made 143 school and classroom visits, 241 individual student contacts, 144 student group contacts, 90 adult staff contacts, and 171 adult group interactions,” Mead said.

The program costs a total of $14,570.31, she said. The district has received an annual donation of $6,000 to support the program, free veterinary care, and donations of food for the dogs.

“It’s been a great program in my mind,” Committee Chairman Joe Colosimo said. “I’ve spoken with a number of students and teachers and they’ve had nothing but positive things to say.”

Hero, with handler Heather Stover, who is a special education supervisor, is based at Beaty-Warren Middle School.

Pepper’s handler is Dr. Cayla Leichtenberger, who is an occupational therapist based at Warren Area Elementary Center who spends time in four district buildings.

“Heather and Cayla have been very generous with their extra work,” Mead said. “They’ve done a lot to make this program successful.”

The dogs can stay with their handlers, but they are comfortable going with others. “I personally have had Hero at Eisenhower probably four times,” Mead said.

Mead said her recommendation was that the district expand the program and bring on two more facility dogs.

Board member Mary Passinger asked where those dogs would be based.

“The recommendation would be to place one of the dogs at Warren Area High School and one at one of the outlying high schools,” Mead said.

The dogs were silent throughout more than two hours of work session, committee meetings, and special meeting.


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