The Total Child

A Call To Action: Superintendents Can Lead Movement for Healthier Schools

(Coordinated School Health, Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness) Permanent link

The following is a guest post by AASA member Joanne Avery, Superintendent of Anderson School District 4 (SC). She writes about her district's work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program. In this past year five schools in Anderson School District 4 has been on the Alliance's list of America's Healthiest Schools.

By Joanne Avery, Superintendent of Anderson School District 4 (SC)  


 Anyone who has worked at, attended or even visited their child’s school knows that there are many people who are responsible for our children’s education. From the groundskeepers who keep our schools safe and clean, to the school nutrition professionals who keep our students nourished, to the teachers who work miracles in the classroom each and every day.

As superintendents, we have a unique vantage point to see how all these pieces come together, and to evaluate what’s working in individual schools and across our districts, at every grade level and in every unique community. And as they say, with great power comes great responsibility.  

 I believe it’s our responsibility as superintendents to educate the total child. And the best way to do that is by putting students’ basic needs first. When children are healthy and safe, they’re better able to listen in class, retain information and demonstrate their knowledge on tests.


 Nearly five years ago, Anderson School District 4 joined forces with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program to focus our wellness efforts, set goals and work strategically to achieve them. Thanks to support from our Healthy Schools Program Manager Beth Barry, every school in our district has met the Alliance’s healthy school benchmarks outlined in the Framework to earn the National Healthy Schools Award! This past year, five Anderson schools were named to the Alliance’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools.

Superintendent Joanne Avery with elementary students during a Walk to School event.


 I’m thrilled with what we’ve accomplished, and I’d love to see more administrators at the helm of district wellness efforts. After all, when district leaders make wellness a priority, principals, teachers and all of the other people who play a role in our children’s education follow suit, which can truly transform the culture of health in schools. Change starts at the top and I invite you to join me as a leader in this movement by:

  •  Role modeling healthy habits. Make sure your board and council meetings serve only foods and beverages that meet the same national nutrition standards you require your schools to meet. If you want teachers to add physical activity breaks into their lessons, show them how to make movement a part of every day and create time in the schedule for them to do so.
  •  Educating. At our core, we’re all educators. And educating the entire school about the importance of a healthy lifestyle should be part of every school’s curriculum. There are many ways to do this: Involve gardening in science lessons, focus on life-long fitness skills during physical education or offer a healthy cooking lesson for parents at back-to-school night.
  •  Building support. Incentivize the types of behavior you want to see students and staff exhibit at school. We’ve used punch cards to track healthy habits, prizes (such as a drawing to win a healthy classroom celebration), and partnerships with local businesses to provide rewards (such as gift cards for parents to purchase healthy food).

Don’t take my word for it. At Anderson 4, where we’ve put our focus on educating the total  child, we’ve seen our graduation rate improve every year since 2010. And in 2016, our high school students’ SAT scores were the highest they’d been in five years.


 We know that the success we’ve experienced is a result of many different individuals and initiatives working together toward a common goal. But we’re confident that our mission to put children’s health above all else is key to setting our students up for a lifetime of prosperity. Will you join Anderson 4 schools in the movement to make every school one of America’s Healthiest Schools?