This course opens on .

April 30, 2024 @ 8:45 am – 2:30 pm


Registration: 8:15 – 8:45 am
Conference: 8:45 am – 2:30 pm

Attend In Person or Via Zoom

Assabet Valley Regional Technical Vocational School
215 Fitchburg St.
Marlborough, MA 01752

  • Nadia L. Ward, M.Ed., Ph.D., Executive Director, Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, Professor of Practice & Licensed Psychologist, Hiatt Center for Urban Education & Adam Institute for Urban Teaching & School Practice, Department of Education, Clark University
  • Amanda Chung, Associate, Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy
  • John Crocker, M.Ed., Director of School Mental Health & Behavioral Services, Methuen Public Schools/Founder and Director, Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium
  • Sheilah Gauch, LICSW, M.Ed., Principal and Clinical Director, Dearborn Academy, Newton
  • Meri Viano, Associate Director, Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL)

“System Builders: Cultivating School-Based Mental Health Leadership” will explore building comprehensive mental health systems that support all students’ wellbeing rather than investing in isolated initiatives. Speakers will address thoughtful and effective mental health supports grounded in an understanding of the impact of both individual and community-level trauma, while also responding to the context within a particular school and community.

Nadia L. Ward, Ph.D., of Clark University’s Department of Education’s Hiatt Center for Urban Education & Adam Institute for Urban Teaching, will deliver the keynote address. Dr. Ward is a nationally recognized leader who works extensively with high-risk as well as high achieving urban youth. She focuses on developing, implementing, and evaluating systemic interventions designed to improve school climate, academic performance, and educational trajectories of low-income and minoritized youth.

Sheilah Gauch, LICSW, M.Ed., will address trauma informed supports for students and caregivers. As an administrator at a private special education school, Sheilah will share her expertise working with high-risk students requiring a substantially separate educational setting. In this role, she interfaces with a variety of public schools and will identify obstacles and challenges in providing comprehensive mental health services to benefit all students.  

This conference will also detail efforts by the School Mental Health Leadership Institute (SMHLI) to prepare school leaders to address and drive change to build leadership capacity in their school or district’s mental health services. The School Mental Health Leadership is a joint effort between the Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth, Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium, and the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

About the Speakers

Nadia L. Ward, M.Ed., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and Executive Director, Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise at Clark University and holds an academic appointment of Professor, in the Department of Education’s Hiatt Center for Urban Education & Adam Institute for Urban Teaching & School Practice. As the Executive Director of the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, Dr. Ward has created a focused agenda that will advance the national and international reputation of the Institute, create new research initiatives that are aligned with its mission, and promote Institute activities and programs within the University, regionally, and in national and international forums. Central to the work of the Institute, is devising new ways to leverage state-of-the-art technology to develop behavioral health interventions to assist teachers, counselors, and behavioral health practitioners in their work with youth. Dr. Ward has appeared on NPR Forum, CNN, and other local news media outlets. She has also presented nationally and internationally and published extensively in reputable professional journals.

Dr. Ward’s experience includes training and consultation to universities, public school systems and private organizations; curriculum development; program development; implementation; and community-engaged research and evaluation. She has worked extensively with high-risk as well as high achieving urban youth and their families in a variety of capacities. She has designed and evaluated academic enrichment and competence enhancing substance abuse and violence prevention programs in school and community settings. Additionally, Dr. Ward has been a leader in comprehensive urban school reform efforts where she engages schools and communities in the development, implementation and evaluation of systemic interventions designed to improve school climate, academic performance and educational trajectories of low-income and minoritized youth.

Amanda Chung joined the Rennie Center shortly after receiving a Master’s in Public Affairs from the LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin. Her desire to engage with K-12 education policy is largely inspired by her time as an AmeriCorps tutor at a middle school in Boston. Amanda’s fulfilling experience working with sixth grade students, combined with past volunteer involvement, contributed to her interest in education accessibility. Amanda’s work as an economic development consultant for rural universities reinforced the value of qualitative data and stakeholder engagement to better understand the needs of a community. An appreciation for community connection has been a key pillar in Amanda’s work history, as she has led outreach efforts for many private, public, and non-profit organizations. Before her Master’s program in Texas, Amanda received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley where she studied Political Science, Public Policy, and Journalism.

John Crocker, M.Ed.

John Crocker, M.Ed., has worked in public education for fifteen years, primarily as the administrator for the Methuen Public Schools Counseling Department. He has overseen the planning and implementation of the “Mental Health Initiative,” which has focused on the establishment of a comprehensive school mental health system (CSMHS) in partnership with the National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH). John has worked with the NCSMH as a member of the National School Mental Health Task Force and as the Massachusetts team leader for the National Coalition for the State Advancement of School Mental Health (NCSA-SMH). In his role as the director of school mental health & behavioral services, he is charged with overseeing the district-wide implementation and evaluation of Methuen’s CSMHS and positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). His work has focused on developing a district-wide system of universal mental health screening, advancing the use of psychosocial data to inform school mental health staff’s therapeutic practice, and the development and evaluation of the CSMHS in Methuen. He has worked to scale up evidence-based therapeutic services across Methuen through the provision of district-wide professional development and the design and implementation of group- and individual-therapy programs. Mr. Crocker founded the Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium (MASMHC), a group of approximately one-hundred and fifty school districts across Massachusetts committed to advocating for and implementing quality and sustainable school mental health services and supports. Most recently, MASMHC co-led the Massachusetts Collaborative for Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) for Comprehensive School Mental Health, the School Mental Health Leadership Institute, and Thriving Minds, a professional development series focused on building comprehensive school mental health systems. He received the National Center for School Mental Health’s School Mental Health Champion Award in 2018 and was nominated the 2019 Massachusetts School Counselors Association (MASCA) Administrator of the Year, the 20-21 Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Counselor of the Year, and the 2021 Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Michael J. Kane Wellness Award recipient.

Sheilah Gauch, LICSW, M.Ed., holds a Masters in Educational Organizational Management and is licensed as a Principal, Special Education Administrator and School Adjustment Counselor through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Sheilah has been working with children with significant mental health needs for over 20 years. She is currently the Principal of Dearborn Academy, a Chapter 766 Private Therapeutic Day School. Dearborn Academy serves students with significant social/emotional and learning challenges. She has supported the school in the creation of a robust academic and clinical milieu to support students with the highest level of need. Sheilah began her career working with children, ages 5-18, in an outpatient treatment setting. Sheilah then moved to work as a clinician at a residential treatment program, where she stayed for close to ten years. From there, she moved to join a public school setting as a Special Education social worker. Here she supported students in sub-separate programming and went on to develop and oversee the district’s Tier 3 off-site transitional program. Sheilah serves as the Chair of her local Special Education Advisory Council (SEPAC). She has two children of her own children who have required special education services. Both of her children were ultimately diagnosed with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep (PANDAS). Sheilah is an active advocate for PANS/PANDAS awareness. She co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition for PANS/PANDAS legislation. This group led the grassroots advocacy effort in Massachusetts that supported the passage of S2984, a health care bill that included both the creation of a PANS/PANDAS Advisory Council and a mandate that insurance companies must provide coverage for the disease. Sheilah attended the University of Texas where she was an All-American swimmer as well as an Olympic Trial participant. Her experience as a collegiate athlete reinforced for her the value and importance of teamwork, perseverance and resiliency – all values she feels are essential to her work in supporting children, and their families and systems, with complex mental health needs.

Meri Viano is the Associate Director of the Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL), a statewide, family-run, grassroots nonprofit organization based in Boston. PPAL is the state organization of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Meri has worked with PPAL for 20 years. Meri has created and been instrumental in PPAL working on relationships with partners in the state to understand parents with mental health needs and partnering with them. Her work has been credited for working with an equity lens in statewide work. Meri has worked in the juvenile justice field for over a decade. Meri brings both her passion and lived experience as a professional parent advocate to support the most difficult of situations with family driven practices.

Membership Information

Most MPY webinars are available ONLY to current staff from member districts and organizations. Public school memberships include police and fire personnel. Former and retired employees and members of committees, including but not limited to, PTO/PTA, PAC, School Improvement Councils, Health Councils, Drug/Alcohol Councils, and school volunteers, are not considered MPY members.

PDPs and CEUs

MPY is an approved Professional Development Provider through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (Provider No. F20180079). Professional Development Points (PDPs) are offered for most MPY professional development webinars. PDPs are issued in 10 hour increments, per DESE requirements.

Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available for clinical staff through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association, Inc. (MaMHCA). The NASW and the MaMHCA approve each event individually. CEUs may be given in hourly increments.

To receive PDPs and CEUs, participants must pass the quiz. The PDP quiz will be made available only to participants who have registered for and attended both conferences.

Event Cancellation Policy

If you are unable to attend a MPY webinar you must cancel, through Bonnie Mullen at, one business day before the webinar.

For MPY hybrid conferences, the date in-person registration closes will be posted on MPY’s website. Virtual conference registration will close one business day before the hybrid conference. You cannot cancel or switch your registration from in-person to virtual after in-person registration closes. Please email Bonnie Mullen at with any questions regarding registration.

  • Enrollment in this course closed on 04/30/2024.

Registration: 8:15 – 8:45 am
Conference: 8:45 am – 2:30 pm