Kim Zemo is named district’s safe school climate coordinator
More than a year after the position was created, WIlton Public Schools has finally found someone to fill its district safe school climate coordinator position, and her name is Kim Zemo.
With the help of the Wilton Security Task Force and forensic psychologist and threat assessment expert David Bernstein, the Board of Education created the position and allocated $85,000 for it in the 2015 fiscal year school budget.
During the Board of Education’s Oct. 22 meeting, board member Christine Finkelstein said Zemo was recommended by the Safe School Climate Coordinator Committee because of her relevant experience, ability as an “effective advocate and problem solver” and “deep clinical knowledge in crises and response.”
“She has a strong connection to the parent community and various mental health organizations in our area,” said Finkelstein, “and many in the room would attest to seeing Kim make, and help others make, connections to students.”
According to the job description, the safe school climate coordinator needs to have:
- Strong experience and training as a clinical practitioner.
- Deep knowledge and expertise about threat assessment processes in a school environment.
- Strong experience and training in working with children and adolescents.
- Knowledge about successful programs focused upon improving school climate and bullying prevention.
- Ability to work effectively as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
Zemo has not only a master’s degree and licensure in clinical social work but also more than 19 years of school-based crisis intervention, assessment and counseling experience.
She said her “clinical expertise in working with at-risk students, leadership experience and years of service” gives her “the necessary background for providing risk assessments, early identification and intervention services.”
Zemo has been a school social worker in the Wilton school district for 19 years, during which, she said, her primary focus has been on “improving school climate and program development targeted at enhancing students’ social and emotional skills.”
In addition to serving as a social worker for the Wilton-Westport Evening School for 11 years, Zemo has served as Wilton High School’s instructional leader for civic and social learning for the last five years, during which she has overseen and implemented the school’s advisory program and facilitated activity periods aimed at “enhancing the social and emotional development of students.”
“My interest, passion and leadership experience in the areas of social and emotional development and promoting a positive school climate during my tenure at Wilton High School has provided me with the expertise to carry those skills to the district level,” said Zemo, who has also co-facilitated Wilton High School’s Peervention program.
Zemo said she will be transitioning into her new position as the district safe school climate coordinator over the coming weeks.
“We are working on a thoughtful transition plan that meets the needs of my current caseload while also allowing time for me to begin to develop an entry plan,” she said.
“As with any new position, it will take time to develop my role and responsibilities within the district and determine how this position can be most effective in each individual school, given the unique developmental needs of each age group.”
As the district safe school climate coordinator, Zemo will report to Ann Paul, assistant superintendent of special services, and her general responsibilities will be to:
- Provide leadership in the detection, assessment and management of internal threats to the schools.
- Lead the district’s threat assessment teams to assess and interpret student behaviors and actions of concern that may indicate the possibility of a threat.
- Coordinate with school administration and faculty on efforts to create a positive climate for all students, making it possible for each child in develop a supportive relationship with at least one staff member.
In other words, Zemo said, she will be responsible for “ensuring the safety of all students by promoting positive school climate initiatives, as well as developing and enhancing programs that promote wellness and address the social and emotional needs of all students.”
Zemo said she is looking forward to “the opportunity to focus districtwide on proactive and preventative efforts to address student safety, school climate and social emotional development.”
“I would like to ensure that there is a systemic approach in place to address the social-emotional development for all students throughout their school career,” she said.
Zemo said she believes that “the relationships within a school are the foundation for addressing the climate” because “how we treat one another impacts the climate and culture within the system.”
“We can foster safety and positive school climate by knowing the students, developing relationships with students, empowering students to speak up, teaching students the skills to be upstanders rather than bystanders, and always offering support,” she said.
Zemo said she is “very excited” for the opportunity to focus on improving school climate and safety, as well as the social and emotional development of the district’s students.
Click here to view the district safe school climate coordinator job description.