MARLBOROUGH — Executive Director Margie Daniels and the Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth (MPY) are pleased to announce that approximately 300 educators and public safety professionals are attending an April 30 hybrid conference on cultivating school-based mental health leadership.


Tuesday, April 30, from 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.


Assabet Valley Regional Vocational High School, Marlborough


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


“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 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. Clark 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.  

As the Associate Director of the Parent/ Professional Advocacy League (PPAL), Meri Viano works with a team that offers offers free support to families when children have emotional, behavioral or mental health needs. PPAL is staffed by family support professionals who have lived experience raising children with behavioral needs. This organization offers support, suggests new strategies to move forward when families are stuck trying to access services through school or insurance, and connects parents with other parents and family members.

MPY Executive Director Margie Daniels commented that, “This conference brings together a tremendously talented group of professionals in the helping field. We are thrilled to welcome Nadia Ward, Ph.D. as the featured speaker, along with Sheilah Gauch, Meri Viano, John Crocker and Amanda Chung.”

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 SMHLI is a joint effort between the Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth, Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium, and the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

John Crocker, Director of School Mental Health & Behavioral Services Guidance for the Methuen Public Schools and Founder and Director of the Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium said, “The School Mental Health Leadership Institute addresses a critical need in the field of school mental health by providing professional development and coaching to individuals who can lead systems level change in their districts in the service of students and families. When we invest in leadership to build systems of support, we advance the quality and sustainability of the services we provide to students. We must acknowledge that investment in expertise is required to realize this critical body of work.”

About the Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth, Inc.

Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides training, fosters collaboration, and develops programming to increase the health and safety of students. MPY is committed to bringing cutting-edge information and high-quality trainings to constituents and endeavors to provide solution-oriented, community-based, multi-disciplinary approaches to reducing and ideally eliminating risky behaviors for youth. MPY Programming reaches nearly 6,000 educators per year in Massachusetts, spread across approximately 300 districts, with more than 150 webinars and over a dozen conferences. 

Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth is governed by a Board of Directors made up of school superintendents, police and fire chiefs, and other community leaders who work closely with MPY staff to deliver this mission. To learn more, visit:

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