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First in a series of personality articles on people involved in dealing with mental health issues affecting students in the Loudonville-Perrysville Schools.
LOUDONVILLE – In October, Christie Orr began service as the Loudonville-Perrysville Schools’ mental health coordinator.
She is the second person to serve in this position. Last school year Beth Cole held the position.
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The concept of the schools having a mental health coordinator came out of a movement three or four years ago that focused more attention on the mental and emotional needs of students, a focus promoted by the community-based Redbird Resilient organization.
As coordinator of mental health programming in the schools, Orr guides a team of guidance counselors and school-community liaisons designed to put effort on mental health problems when they occur. Also on that team are guidance counselors David Lance (grades 7-12) and Kristin Thiebaud (K-6), counselor Kayla Crew, who serves the district through Appleseed Counseling in Ashland; and liaisons Alissa Schmidt, grades K-6, and Mindy Wilson, 7-12.
“My job is a mix of tasks, including providing training and support for teachers as they deal with mental health issues, guiding the mental health team and doing anything else which could in some way help the kids in our school system,” Orr said. “For instance, last week we were short on substitute teachers at the McMullen School, and I actually subbed in a class one day.
“In working with teachers, I try to keep the difficult task of dealing with mental health issues as positive as possible, urging teachers to focus on the positive aspects of why they went into teaching and what about their jobs makes them glad they are teachers,” she said. “I also distribute a newsletter once a month containing information on dealing with mental health cases as they come up. I meet with smaller groups of teachers to concentrate on age-appropriate lessons.”
Grew up in the Northwestern School District in Wayne County
A native of the Northwestern School District in Wayne County, Orr said she was pretty much unfamiliar with the Loudonville-Perrysville area before starting to work in it last fall.
“But I was warmly welcomed by the staff here, and I feel the staff here appreciates me,” she said. “I enjoy learning about my new community, which I find very close-knit, with churches and businesses that are very supportive of the schools. Everyone has been very helpful to me, and the longer I have been here, the more comfortable I am working here. There are about 150 teachers in the school district, and I am sure I haven’t met all of them, and I am just beginning to work with other school staff, in the offices, the custodians, cooks and bus drivers. All are involved in some ways with the welfare of our students.”
She noted that school mental health coordinator is a new position.
“Not all schools have them, and some call them by different names, like wellness coordinator,” she said. “Because it is a new field, and I am very new at it, we don’t have a lot of information on how effective we are dealing with mental health issues, or how we compare with other school districts as far as what problems we have, and they have.”
Orr stressed she works for the entire school district, dealing with kids from kindergarten through seniors in high school.
“Coming in back in October, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the job, though I was excited about the new opportunity,” she said. “It takes a while to get to know the community. Helpful in doing that has been my participation in Redbird Resilient and Loudonville Ministerial Association meetings. I will also attend my first school board meeting this month, and I do a lot of work with the local mental health agencies, Appleseed Counseling and Catholic Charities.”
Took three years of classes at Kent State University in two years
Orr graduated from Northwestern High School in 2018, but spent her senior year taking post-secondary education classes at Ashland University. She then took three years of classes at Kent State University in two years, earning a degree in psychology with concentrations in human development and family studies in 2020. She and her husband, a member of the Wooster Police Department, were also married in 2020.
She worked at the Wayne County Department of Children’s Services prior to starting as mental health coordinator.
Technically, she explained, she is employed by the Tri-County School District in Wooster, though she receives direction and spends all of her time in the L-P School District.
She said that she has worked regularly since she was in the seventh grade, taking regular baby-sitting jobs, something she still does on occasion. Then in high school she started working as a waitress at the Bob Evans Restaurant on Madison Avenue in Wooster, a job she continued through college.
Since her husband’s police work often is on weekends, she said “I still do some baby-sitting when he is working.”
This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: THIS WEEK’S PERSONALITY: Orr is school mental health coordinator