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Superintendent with a Vision for Healthy Schools and Community

Jackson-Madison County Schools is a Tennessee school district with momentum and enthusiasm. The twenty-eight schools, a mixture of suburban, rural and urban schools, have fully embraced the tenets of Coordinated School Health and all schools are members of the Healthy Schools Program.

These accomplishments are due in large part to the tremendous vision and support from Superintendent Dr. Nancy Zambito. Zambito came to the district two years ago from Pinellas County, FL. She brought with her a vision for how schools can work with their surrounding community on health initiatives and how these efforts can enrich the lives of students, staff and families. “Overall, I believe that a healthy lifestyle is integral to students, staff and the community.”

In the last two years the district has adopted a number of best practice programs and they have worked closely with city and county officials to maximize their efforts. Some of the recent achievements in Jackson-Madison County include:

  • Providing breakfast in the classroom for all elementary schools, and now moving to high schools
  • Ensuring that Coordinated School Health is part of district’s wellness policies, school improvement plans, and council meetings
  • Removing all unhealthy items from school vending machines, with no push-back
  • Establishing an exercise room for staff at the School Board office
  • Determining that all schools would form Healthy School Teams (School Wellness Councils)
  • One elementary school was named one of the ten healthiest schools in America by a leading national publication

Firmly believing that the community and families play a role in wellness, one of the biggest achievements of the district has been a program called Jump Start Jackson, a wellness initiative supported by both the city and county mayors, and of course, the school district. Among the activities in Jump Start Jackson include an annual walk – free for all participants. Schools are challenged and recognized for having the most participants (not just staff, but students and families as well).

There is also a monthly run held in various parks in which many principals participate. When asked about why the Jackson-Madison School District joined the Healthy Schools Program, Zambito shares, “Because you at the Alliance emphasize that healthier students make better students – that’s a fact I wholeheartedly embrace. It is also just as important for me to know that healthier teachers make better teachers. Your school employee wellness best practices are key to helping us reach this goal and are one of our top priorities this school year.”

With Healthy Schools Teams now formed at each school, the district is starting to see results. Three schools in the district are already eligible for the Healthy Schools Program’s National Recognition Award at the Silver level and another school has met the requirements for the Bronze Award.

On October 15th, both the city and county mayors, along with Zambito signed a new wellness policy for the entire community. With support from the National League of Cities, this new policy reinforces the support of Coordinated School Health, details how improving roads and parks will promote walking, bicycling and exercise, uses multi-media to increase public awareness of wellness and exercise, and encourages wellness activities for city and county employees. Zambito and schools play a crucial role in the policy. “After all,” she states, “we cannot let our children not outlive their parents.”

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