Mental Health and Money: PTSO Meeting and Parent Social

On Nov. 10, the PTSO hosted their first parent social of the year in the library along with their monthly PTSO meeting, where attendees reflected on the student body’s mental health as they return to in-person school.


Amelia Chen

As the parent social came to an end, Matt Brooks, an art therapist from the Resilience Network, looks over to PTSO President Tiffany Ahmed as she makes her final closing statements.

Amelia Chen, Harini Kannan, and Lucian Tiller

At the Nov. 10 PTSO meeting, community members gathered in the library for a parent social and discussed updates on mental health of the student body with the return to in-person school and the prior embezzlement accusations from the board.   

Due to the holidays and  asynchronous days from Nov. 1 through Nov. 5, the PTSO’s monthly meeting was held in conjunction with their first parent social of the year. PTSO president Tiffany Ahmed opened the meeting with parent introductions. Ahmed then turned the audience to Principal John Duellman.

Duellman began his speech by commenting on the diversity of the school and how it can be used as a tool of social engagement and new learning experiences for the students and their peers. He mentioned orchestra teacher Teresa Gordon as an example of a teacher who does this well:  Gordon teaches using students’ background to improve their skills. Duellman’s remarks heavily focused on keeping students engaged during the adjustment to in-person learning after a year of virtual learning — a change where potential learning gaps posed concerns. He said that the freshman and sophomores were affected more by the pandemic than the current junior and senior classes. Duellman hopes to close the gap with the measures of support systems the school had to offer, which included the implementation of an anchored study hall this year. 

Prior to distance learning, study hall was called Rock Block, which was a 1 hour and 30 minute period when all students and teachers were in study hall classes. This allowed for students to receive  help from teachers and collaborate with other students. Although it was mostly successful, students who attended the Academies of Loudoun on the day that Rock Block took place were not able to benefit from it. Therefore, for the 2021-2022 school year, Duellman and the counseling team strategically assigned students to smaller study halls, where students would be with a teacher who taught the subject that they needed support in. 

After Duellman’s speech, the United Mental Health presented to attendees. School psychologist Dallas Swirchak kicked off the presentation with a discussion on how mental health affects students’ daily lives and their behavior in school. Swirwak stated that it was tough to come back to rigorous classes while balancing them with clubs and sports. Trying to fit in all these activities could cause a student to burn out quickly, so Swirchak encouraged parents at the meeting to support students in determining a balanced schedule. 

Then, counselor Amrita Khatta discussed the importance of supporting students at home. She noted a helpful tip that parents can utilize when seeing their child after school — instead of bombarding kids with questions regarding academics as soon as they come home, Khatta suggests that parents designate  a specific time to talk with their chil(ren) about academics. Therefore, allowing students to be able to prepare themselves to talk about school and have time to relax after a long school day. 

In addition, the PTSO invited Matt Brooks, a certified art therapist from the Resilience Network, to speak on how parents could better approach and better understand their children when they are struggling. Brooks then opened it up to a Q&A session with the attendees, offering advice from his perspective as a professional.

Finally, the meeting ended with Ahmed discussing the recent embezzlement case of the PTSO’s former treasurer, Sophia Brown. She also covered the newly instated procedures, and measures set by the  PTSO to ensure that a case like that would not occur in the future.

In order to avoid future cases of embezzlement, Ahmed stated that there was liability insurance, reports being made to the IRS, and a 501C3 classification for better safety. In addition, a new bank account was made, in which all transactions made would need to be signed by both the  PTSO president and treasurer. 

A new accounting software was also implemented, which would integrate the organization’s bank account, allowing the board to view all transactions. This new system, which was specifically recommended to the PTSO, would allow for transparency regarding the use of funds, unlike the PTSO’s previous use of a manual spreadsheet to track funds.. Ahmed stressed the PTSO’s enforcement of transparency, so that situations of embezzlement would be avoided. 

The next PTSO meeting will be on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 7pm and will be held virtually.