As Harford County observes Mental Health Awareness Month, Harford County Public Schools appointed Joseph Harbert as director of health and wellness, a newly created position.
The announcement was made during the Board of Education meeting Monday and comes after a school system report on student mental health was presented to the County Council.
Harbert will report to the executive director of student support and work closely with Harford County’s health department to create physical and mental wellness programs. He will be the lead coordinator of the North Star initiative and Blueprint-related programs.
As director of health and wellness, he will collaborate with school-based staff to help students who struggle with personal, medical, social and emotional issues.
Harbert currently serves as supervisor of physical education for elementary and middle schools in the county as well as adapted physical education for prekindergarten through 12th grade. He has over 24 years’ experience in education.
Harbert’s career started in 1998 as an educator with county public schools. He taught physical education and coached at Aberdeen High School, and was an assistant principal at Aberdeen and Joppatowne High School and the Center for Education Opportunity. He also worked as program coordinator for physical education and health in Cecil County schools.
Along with the announcement about Harbert’s appointment, the school board received an update on countywide COVID-19 statistics. Schools risk manager Katie Ridgway reported that 7.86% of Harford County residents have COVID-19.
Although the metrics are higher than in the previous update, the CDC still has Harford County at low community risk, Ridgway said. There is one classroom outbreak in the public schools, at Patterson Mill High School.
Other discussions during the board meeting covered a salary increase for schools staff and a blueprint for students’ future.
If the new budget is approved by County Council, the school system would have provided a 28% salary increase over seven years, beginning in fiscal 2016.
“We are still waiting on a council vote, but we have confidence they will come through and support,” Superintendent Sean Bulson said.
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The next Board of Education meeting is May 16.