Doug Schmidt, Bill Bowe, Diane Neal, Brenda Gowan and Maura Kostraba have been leaders in their school districts’ efforts to improve the health and well-being of their employees, putting in many hours on top of their demanding jobs for the benefit of fellow workers. All five have either stepped down from longtime leadership posts, or are moving aside to let others lead. Some are retiring after decades in education. Doug Schmidt The story of Doug Schmidt, who has served as wellness committee chair at Victor Central School District, is well known — not just within consortium circles, but regionally and nationally. After having a heart attack at age 49, Schmidt embraced a whole food, plant-based diet, took up running and ultimately shed 60 pounds, dropping all of his medications in the process. Schmidt has consciously instilled better physical health through passion and lifestyle changes. He shares his story to encourage others to adopt healthier diets. He did it through Victor’s wellness committee, the consortium and beyond. Schmidt is retiring this fall as an enrichment teacher working with gifted and talented students at Victor. He played a lead role in encouraging the whole foods, plant-based diet that changed his life, pointing to the plant-based diet challenges the FLASHP schools hold throughout the year. He notes those 10-day challenges have moved well beyond the consortium to involve Ontario County and many businesses. “It’s really expanded across the state,” Schmidt says, noting that his wife, Shari, created a Facebook page called Eat Plants Love that promotes a plant-based life. It has more than 4,000 members. Recipes are shared on the page, and members get support, information and more. “Last year we wrote our own cookbook (Eat Plants Love),” Schmidt says. “We’re working on a second cookbook, Eat More Plants Love. We’re doing that for the January challenge.” He wants to see his last plant-based challenge through. While Schmidt is stepping down as an educator, his and Shari’s efforts to promote the plant-based lifestyle will continue — from the warmer confines of their new home in Phoenix, Ariz., where they are moving to be closer to family. “Helping people regain their health is powerful and so rewarding,” Schmidt says. “Just like in being a teacher, it is another way to make a difference.” Diane Neal Diane Neal, a longtime wellness coordinator at the Seneca Falls Central School District, isn’t retiring from her job as the district’s assistant data coordinator. She is stepping down as wellness committee co-chair and the FLASHP’s Wellness is Now (WIN) co-chair position. Neal has been a leader of the wellness committee since its inception in 2014 after being encouraged to do so by now-retired Superintendent Bob McKeveny. She hopes to stay involved as a committee member. Neal says the committee promotes a number of wellness initiatives that run from blood pressure checks to walking challenges, to the annual plant-based diet challenge that has become a wellness effort staple. The committee also annually takes part in women’s heart health initiatives and hydration challenges, hosts “early bird” workouts, yoga classes and more. She says her co-chair work with the FLASHP wellness group, which includes Rick Amundson of Smola Consulting, “was a joy, and we worked behind the scenes to help Rick create meaningful meetings, brainstorm ideas to present, talk about guest presenters and help assure the meetings went smoothly.” One of her goals was to ensure wellness programs at Seneca Falls had broad participation. The committee encouraged involvement by not just teachers, but support staff such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers as well, she says. The task was not easy, she explains, as each group works in different shifts. Neal says she’s learned so much from her committee involvement, including the need to take care of oneself. “Truly, self care has to be a priority in your life, rather than an afterthought,” Neal says, pointing to meditation, breathing, nutrition and exercise as part of that concept. “It has to start with you. Are you whole enough to turn around and put the energy towards others?” Bill Bowe As a physical education teacher in the Canandaigua City School District, heading the district’s wellness efforts was a natural fit for Bill Bowe. Afterall, wellness is pretty much in the job description. “It’s (the wellness chair job) something I had great interest in,” Bowe says. He retired in June after 34 years at Canandaigua, where he also coached baseball and many other sports. “It felt like a no-brainer.” At Canandaigua, says Bowe, the wellness committee enjoyed many accomplishments — from the promotion of biometric screenings, flu shots, telemedicine and Rally Rewards to strong participation in the annual plant-based diet challenge. But Bowe says one of his proudest accomplishments is the installation of fitness centers in each of the district’s buildings. Those fitness centers gave staff access before, during and after school, Bowe, and they are utilized by many staff members, he says. “Seeing people in there on a daily basis is good, knowing that you were a part of that,” he says. The longtime physical education teacher and coach, who served the wellness committee since 2012, believes it’s an effective tool for promoting good health for all Canandaigua staff members. “I think it’s had a huge impact,” says Bowe. “It’s a good feeling when you do get that email that someone lowered their cholesterol and lost weight.” Bowe says the consortium, working with Excellus and Smola Consulting, is not only improving the lives of school employees, but helping to reduce healthcare costs for all of the districts and their workers. Brends Gowan

Brenda Gowan, who has served as senior payroll and benefits clerk at Williamson Central School for more than 20 years, looks back fondly on her time as a wellness committee co-chair. She began her involvement in 2011, when then-Superintendent Maria Ehresman asked if she could look into bringing Weight Watchers and a flu shot clinic into the schools that fall. “Since that day, I have been the staff wellness coordinator, even before the WIN Committee was started,” Gowan recalls. She says she was on her own for the first few years, but when WIN was formed under the leadership of Amundson, she got guidance on what a wellness committee should look like and recruited people from each school building. “We have created a great team of wellness champions to bring and promote many different wellness initiatives to the wonderful staff here at Williamson Central School over the years,” Gowan says. The committee ultimately added a co-chair position because of the increased workload, and it’s been key to bolstering Williamson’s wellness efforts. “Working together helped to make the wellness team that much stronger and able to offer many more things to our staff,” she says. Gowan adds that she is not retiring, but stepping away from the committee to spend more time with her two grandchildren. She believes fresh leadership will bring “new ideas and energy to lead wellness in our district.” Gowan says she has drawn great satisfaction working as the district’s wellness chair. “I really enjoy helping people in any capacity,” she says. “So seeing them so excited about some of our wellness activities and initiatives has really been so gratifying for me.” Maura Kostraba Maura Kostraba has retired after 30-plus years in physical education and coaching in the Avon Central School District. She served the district most recently as a wellness committee member and, earlier, as its chair, with her involvement going back into the 1990s. “In the early 2000s, I was co-chair, as we tried to reinvent the wellness committee and encourage more staff involvement,” Kostraba says. “The district’s wellness policy was our first task. We put together a comprehensive policy from the ground up.” Kostraba says the committee created a host of offerings, including wellness days, health fairs, walking programs and more. She says one of the wellness committee’s greatest accomplishments was greater staff involvement. Kostraba says she’s most proud of her work with Community Health Magazine, which was created in 2011. “I have been a member of the FLASHP/WIN Community Health Magazine Editorial Advisory Board from the start,” she says. “The magazine has grown and developed into an amazing resource for the members of FLASHP.” As she moves into retirement, Kostraba hopes others will consider serving on the committee. “Get involved,” Kostraba advises. “Offer a variety of opportunities for individuals to be well. So many different activities help to define a person’s wellness. There is a definite commitment involved, but if you are passionate about what you are doing, the time will be well spent and the results will speak for themselves. Be an advocate for the health and well-being of your district’s staff members!” She says serving on the committee has been a blessing to her own well-being. “I have become more aware of the things that help me to feel well — being with family and friends, swimming, walking, gardening, just being outside,” Kostraba says.

Doug Schmidt, Bill Bowe, Diane Neal, Brenda Gowan and Maura Kostraba have been leaders in their school districts’ efforts to improve the health and well-being of their employees, putting in many hours on top of their demanding jobs for the benefit of fellow workers.

All five have either stepped down from longtime leadership posts, or are moving aside to let others lead. Some are retiring after decades in education.

Doug Schmidt

The story of Doug Schmidt, who has served as wellness committee chair at Victor Central School District, is well known — not just within consortium circles, but regionally and nationally.

After having a heart attack at age 49, Schmidt embraced a whole food, plant-based diet, took up running and ultimately shed 60 pounds, dropping all of his medications in the process.

Schmidt has consciously instilled better physical health through passion and lifestyle changes.

He shares his story to encourage others to adopt healthier diets. He did it through Victor’s wellness committee, the consortium and beyond. Schmidt is retiring this fall as an enrichment teacher working with gifted and talented students at Victor.

He played a lead role in encouraging the whole foods, plant-based diet that changed his life, pointing to the plant-based diet challenges the FLASHP schools hold throughout the year. He notes those 10-day challenges have moved well beyond the consortium to involve Ontario County and many businesses.

“It’s really expanded across the state,” Schmidt says, noting that his wife, Shari, created a Facebook page called Eat Plants Love that promotes a plant-based life. It has more than 4,000 members. Recipes are shared on the page, and members get support, information and more.

“Last year we wrote our own cookbook (Eat Plants Love),” Schmidt says. “We’re working on a second cookbook, Eat More Plants Love. We’re doing that for the January challenge.”

He wants to see his last plant-based challenge through.

While Schmidt is stepping down as an educator, his and Shari’s efforts to promote the plant-based lifestyle will continue — from the warmer confines of their new home in Phoenix, Ariz., where they are moving to be closer to family.

“Helping people regain their health is powerful and so rewarding,” Schmidt says. “Just like in being a teacher, it is another way to make a difference.”

Diane Neal

Diane Neal, a longtime wellness coordinator at the Seneca Falls Central School District, isn’t retiring from her job as the district’s assistant data coordinator. She is stepping down as wellness committee co-chair and the FLASHP’s Wellness is Now (WIN) co-chair position.

Neal has been a leader of the wellness committee since its inception in 2014 after being encouraged to do so by now-retired Superintendent Bob McKeveny.

She hopes to stay involved as a committee member.

Neal says the committee promotes a number of wellness initiatives that run from blood pressure checks to walking challenges, to the annual plant-based diet challenge that has become a wellness effort staple.

The committee also annually takes part in women’s heart health initiatives and hydration challenges, hosts “early bird” workouts, yoga classes and more.

She says her co-chair work with the FLASHP wellness group, which includes Rick Amundson of Smola Consulting, “was a joy, and we worked behind the scenes to help Rick create meaningful meetings, brainstorm ideas to present, talk about guest presenters and help assure the meetings went smoothly.”

One of her goals was to ensure wellness programs at Seneca Falls had broad participation. The committee encouraged involvement by not just teachers, but support staff such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers as well, she says. The task was not easy, she explains, as each group works in different shifts.

Neal says she’s learned so much from her committee involvement, including the need to take care of oneself.

“Truly, self care has to be a priority in your life, rather than an afterthought,” Neal says, pointing to meditation, breathing, nutrition and exercise as part of that concept. “It has to start with you. Are you whole enough to turn around and put the energy towards others?”

Bill Bowe

As a physical education teacher in the Canandaigua City School District, heading the district’s wellness efforts was a natural fit for Bill Bowe. Afterall, wellness is pretty much in the job description.

“It’s (the wellness chair job) something I had great interest in,” Bowe says. He retired in June after 34 years at Canandaigua, where he also coached baseball and many other sports. “It felt like a no-brainer.”

At Canandaigua, says Bowe, the wellness committee enjoyed many accomplishments — from the promotion of biometric screenings, flu shots, telemedicine and Rally Rewards to strong participation in the annual plant-based diet challenge.

But Bowe says one of his proudest accomplishments is the installation of fitness centers in each of the district’s buildings.

Those fitness centers gave staff access before, during and after school, Bowe, and they are utilized by many staff members, he says.

“Seeing people in there on a daily basis is good, knowing that you were a part of that,” he says.

The longtime physical education teacher and coach, who served the wellness committee since 2012, believes it’s an effective tool for promoting good health for all Canandaigua staff members.

“I think it’s had a huge impact,” says Bowe. “It’s a good feeling when you do get that email that someone lowered their cholesterol and lost weight.”

Bowe says the consortium, working with Excellus and Smola Consulting, is not only improving the lives of school employees, but helping to reduce healthcare costs for all of the districts and their workers.

Brends Gowan

Brenda Gowan, who has served as senior payroll and benefits clerk at Williamson Central School for more than 20 years, looks back fondly on her time as a wellness committee co-chair.

She began her involvement in 2011, when then-Superintendent Maria Ehresman asked if she could look into bringing Weight Watchers and a flu shot clinic into the schools that fall.

“Since that day, I have been the staff wellness coordinator, even before the WIN Committee was started,” Gowan recalls.

She says she was on her own for the first few years, but when WIN was formed under the leadership of Amundson, she got guidance on what a wellness committee should look like and recruited people from each school building.

“We have created a great team of wellness champions to bring and promote many different wellness initiatives to the wonderful staff here at Williamson Central School over the years,” Gowan says.

The committee ultimately added a co-chair position because of the increased workload, and it’s been key to bolstering Williamson’s wellness efforts.

“Working together helped to make the wellness team that much stronger and able to offer many more things to our staff,” she says.

Gowan adds that she is not retiring, but stepping away from the committee to spend more time with her two grandchildren. She believes fresh leadership will bring “new ideas and energy to lead wellness in our district.”

Gowan says she has drawn great satisfaction working as the district’s wellness chair.

“I really enjoy helping people in any capacity,” she says. “So seeing them so excited about some of our wellness activities and initiatives has really been so gratifying for me.”

Maura Kostraba

Maura Kostraba has retired after 30-plus years in physical education and coaching in the Avon Central School District.

She served the district most recently as a wellness committee member and, earlier, as its chair, with her involvement going back into the 1990s.

“In the early 2000s, I was co-chair, as we tried to reinvent the wellness committee and encourage more staff involvement,” Kostraba says. “The district’s wellness policy was our first task. We put together a comprehensive policy from the ground up.”

Kostraba says the committee created a host of offerings, including wellness days, health fairs, walking programs and more. She says one of the wellness committee’s greatest accomplishments was greater staff involvement.

Kostraba says she’s most proud of her work with Community Health Magazine, which was created in 2011.

“I have been a member of the FLASHP/WIN Community Health Magazine Editorial Advisory Board from the start,” she says. “The magazine has grown and developed into an amazing resource for the members of FLASHP.”

As she moves into retirement, Kostraba hopes others will consider serving on the committee.

“Get involved,” Kostraba advises. “Offer a variety of opportunities for individuals to be well. So many different activities help to define a person’s wellness. There is a definite commitment involved, but if you are passionate about what you are doing, the time will be well spent and the results will speak for themselves. Be an advocate for the health and well-being of your district’s staff members!”

She says serving on the committee has been a blessing to her own well-being.

“I have become more aware of the things that help me to feel well — being with family and friends, swimming, walking, gardening, just being outside,” Kostraba says.

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