SEAL Team (Social, Emotional, Academic Learning)


April 10, 2024

The Greater Johnstown School District prioritizes students’ mental health with investments in SEAL Team resources

Students in need can receive personalized assistance from building psychologists, social workers, behavioral specialists, and counselors

What Exactly Does the SEAL Team Do?

You may have heard of the Greater Johnstown School District’s SEAL Team, but what exactly is it? SEAL stands for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning. The SEAL Team is made up of a variety of mental health professionals including school psychologists, social workers, behavioral specialists, counselors, and the District’s School Resource Officer – who are embedded into each of the four school buildings in the District to provide personalized assistance to students in need. 

The SEAL Team was created by District administrators and has been fine-tuned in the past few years since COVID, as a way to enhance and streamline resources aimed at increasing student achievement. Nikki Lent (Director of Pupil and Personnel Services) is the administrator who oversees the team, and Dr. Chad Swanson (School Psychologist, Warren Street Elementary) is the SEAL Team Coordinator for the District.

“These resources are critical,” Dr. Swanson said. “We’re not just teaching reading, writing, and math anymore. We have to teach students how to handle emotions, how to get along with each other, and how to work together. Those are the soft skills that students need to be successful in their future and in the workplace,” he added.

Swanson said that many students unfortunately experience chronic stress at home and from things outside of school, which can make it hard for them to focus on academics when they get to school. 

“Our job is to provide those mental health supports so that when they’re in the classroom, they can really prioritize learning and focus on their positive relationships with their teachers and their friends,” he said.

Teachers are encouraged to reach out for help for individual students who may be showing signs of stress through changes in their behavior. A SEAL Team member will meet with the student to assess the situation, and then work with the teacher to come up with a personalized plan to help the student cope with their stress, manage their emotions, and ultimately be more productive and focused in the classroom.

“The reality is that when a lot of students come to school, it is their safe haven from outside stress. I think it is every educator’s hope that their students feel safe, supported, and inspired when they’re in school, and they realize that we’re here for them,” Swanson said.


As the District administrator who oversees the SEAL Team’s mission, Lent agrees that these resources are needed now more than ever before. 

“I oversee programs that some of our community stakeholders might not realize are critically necessary in a school district in this day and age,” Lent said. “I work closely with homeless families and families that are in transitional housing. I am the District liaison for Child Protective Services (CPS), oversee special education services (CSE), and help identify special needs in students before they’re even old enough to attend school,” she added. “Families and students need help for things that take place beyond the school day, and beyond the classroom. The need is high, and I don’t see these numbers going down anytime soon.” 

Lent says it is the teamwork aspect that makes the SEAL program so successful. Each of the SEAL professionals has a different expertise, but the real power comes from the team’s collective knowledge to formulate the best possible plan for each student.

“Each SEAL Team professional brings a different micro-lens to frame the work they do for students and staff,” she explained. “A counselor might have a different strategy-based perspective to share, whereas a psychologist comes from a more clinical background with more of a data-informed perspective. Social workers reflect on what they can see in their interactions with family and a familiarity with available community supports.” 

SEAL Team members also provide critical support and professional development to GJSD staff members to give them the tools necessary to provide what Dr. Swanson refers to as “psychological first aid” in the classroom.

“Education itself is a very challenging place to be right now. It’s hard work and it’s emotional work, but it is also extremely rewarding work,” Lent said. “We have an amazing team of teachers and administrators who have a ‘do what it takes’ attitude, and I don’t think you get that everywhere. It’s why I feel like Johnstown is home for me. It’s a special place,” she added.

Making Mental Health a District Priority

Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Crankshaw has made mental health an important cornerstone of his work at Johnstown, and is a strong advocate for the District’s SEAL Team. 

“I am grateful to the Board of Education and to the community for supporting a budget that allows us to have a SEAL Team in place,” he said. “Post-COVID, we quickly realized that our students and staff were in need of more specialized, diverse and in-depth services, and we were able to provide a robust response to those needs. Our SEAL staff has increased by 100% since COVID – a move that is paying off in dividends when it comes to improving student achievement, combating chronic absenteeism, and improving the overall well-being of our school community.”

Crankshaw reiterated the important role that the District’s School Resource Officer (SRO) plays in the SEAL Team. “Oftentimes issues concerning mental health can become safety concerns,” he said. “Sometimes we need to know what’s going on for a student outside of school and how that carries back into the classroom, and vice versa. Communication between the SRO and the SEAL Team makes for a really impactful combination of efforts,” he said.

Crankshaw said he is “incredibly proud that Johnstown is at the forefront of the effort to prioritize mental health regionally, and even statewide,” but acknowledged that this is just the beginning of the mission.  

“The SEAL Team is here to stay. This is where we are as a society, as a community, and as a District. Teachers are always going to need strategies to help reach students more effectively, and students are always going to need additional support. The work of the SEAL Team helps our staff and students to be more successful in the classroom and better prepares them for adulthood, which is the ultimate goal.”

Meet the SEAL Team:

District Level

Dr. William Crankshaw – Superintendent of Schools
Nikki Lent – Director of Pupil and Personnel Services; District oversight of SEAL Team
Dr. Chad Swanson – School Psychologist at Warren St.; SEAL Team Coordinator
Kristin Michaels – CSE Chairperson
Officer Kerri Hauser – School Resource Officer

Pleasant Avenue Elementary School (PK – grade 1)

School Psychologist – Mackenzie Sweet
Behavior Specialist – Dr. Keiley Pfeiffer
School Counselor – Jessica Hayner

Warren Street Elementary School (grades 2-4)

School Psychologist – Dr. Chad Swanson
Behavior Specialist – Jackie Miller
School Counselor – Stephanie Di Visconti
Social Worker – Courtney Blacha

Knox Middle School (grades 5-7)

School Psychologist – Caitlin Murphy
Social Worker – Karyn Watson
School Counselor – Angela Yetto

Johnstown High School (grades 8-12)

School Psychologist – Dr. Michael Fraser
School Counselor – Jeff Blacha
School Counselor – Kellie LaCoppola
School Social Worker – Ashley Schotts
Student Support Counseling (Family Counseling Center) – Grace Thompson
Community Outreach Specialist (Family Counseling Center) – Cassey Knowlton