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Proposed job description would broaden scope of Middle School social work

To meet the ever-changing needs of students, the Middle School is redefining what it means to be a social worker.

The School Board on May 8, 2018 approved in concept a description for a position at the Middle School that would span multiple realms of student family and school support.

The proposed job title, "Home/School Service Coordinator," is a work in progress, but after his first year at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, Principal Troy Eastman said he sees it filling a gap in home-to-school communication and support for parents and students.

Bottom line, there are a lot of areas where a wide range of middle-school students need support. "And a social worker I think sounds like the right job description, but when I looked at it I found it to be more limiting than what I think the scope or need is," Eastman said.

The description is written broadly to cast a "wide net" for qualified applicants, Eastman said, but the job could address at least four student needs not covered by the traditional counseling or social-work position at the school:

  • Anxiety - "I've noticed (anxiety) is really high here, and a lot of pressure to achieve and keep up with your peers and I'm not sure that that fits in the social worker realm."
  • Absences - "We have a lot of kids miss a lot of school that are not truant, they have excused absences, but they are large in number and right now that's hard for somebody to really go out and make that their mission to really dig in to and find out what's going on."
  • Restorative Justice - "I haven't really seen a lot of need for handing out consequences in my role as a principal at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, because a lot of things are not rising to the level of consequence, but there's still a lot of things that need to be addressed. (For example) blocking people at the slide ... those are the types of things that restorative justice or restorative practices - really about empowering victims - is about. Somebody has to take that role on if we want to start to roll that out."
  • Executive Skills - "I have so many parents wanting to know more about Freshman Academy," Eastman said, referring to the High School program that emphasizes organizational and other skills students need for success. "If we have kids needing that when they leave, why can't we solve that issue before they get to the High School? I just see it as that's something we're missing."

The position, anticipated to cost $87,000, is part of the fiscal 2019 school budget and is "budget-neutral" because it will be supported by a Federal IDEA Local Entitlement Grant.

Board members lauded Eastman's creative approach and approved the job description in concept, but will consider a final version in a second reading at their meeting June 12.