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School Board to retain 'social worker' description for new Middle School hire

The additional Middle School social worker that is part of the school's 2018-2019 budget will have the job title, "Social Worker."

The School Board on June 12, 2018 affirmed the need for expanded social-work services at the Middle School, but that those needs could be met without changing the title or description of the budgeted position.

On May 8 the board approved the concept of a "Home/School Service Coordinator," the working title for a job that would increase home-to-school support for students at the Middle School. Middle School Principal Troy Eastman proposed the concept because he said he believed the social-worker job description was too narrow to address issues such as student anxiety, absenteeism, restorative justice and executive functioning. Classroom support and better communication between home and school are also needed.

The proposal came back to the board June 12 with a new title, "Student Services Coordinator," but some board members said they were concerned that the job title did not match the item in the budget. "The No. 1 duty of the social worker is to provide mental health services to students within the school setting," said board member Hope Straw, referring to the present job description. "My concern is that we had community outreach, we had a need for an additional social worker ... I'm concerned that we are losing the social worker."

The Middle School has one social worker who, Eastman said, is "out straight" servicing students with special-education Individualized Education Programs. "I think what we need is somebody who can address the needs of the larger school population - not that they can't as a social worker, but (the social worker's) time does get prioritized differently," Eastman said.

School Board members said they understood the needs, but that they could be met by a social worker. "Why can't we hire a social worker and ask him or her to do what we need them to do?" said board member Elizabeth Scifres. She cited the High School as an example where students without IEPs regularly access social-work services.

The consensus of the board was to advertise for and hire a social worker for the Middle School for 2018-19, and to direct the administration to review the social-worker job description. Eastman concurred with that approach, further suggesting the description include licensed social workers as well as licensed clinical social workers. "An LCSW can provide clinical counseling, so it's a higher level, but I'm not sure all those things are that important for everything that we need," he said.

The position, anticipated to cost $87,000, is "budget-neutral" because it will be supported by a Federal IDEA Local Entitlement Grant.

The Middle School will have two social workers when the new staff is hired. The High School has two social workers and Pond Cove Elementary School has one full-time and one half time, said Interim Superintendent Howard Colter.