BUCKHANNON – Upshur County Board of Education members voted unanimously Tuesday evening to table a recommendation for an asset-building and collaboration program agreement with Mountain CAP of West Virginia until they have more information about transfers and reductions in personnel.
The proposed Asset Building and Collaboration program, or ABC, is designed to provide trauma-informed social work in the schools and would be a pilot program for Tennerton, Union and Hodgesville elementary schools – the schools without access to school-based clinics.
In her presentation of the program, Tracy Shroyer-Carlyle, deputy director of Mountain CAP of West Virginia, Inc. and director of the Child Advocacy Center, said she had conversations with Upshur County Student Services Director Jodie Akers and said they recognize the need for social workers in the schools.
“It is a huge need, but not easy to do,” Shroyer-Carlyle said. “As we started discussing it, we did a review and looked at what was out there – nothing, as we saw it, existed. We did find some best practices we would like to implement with this project.”
Shroyer-Carlyle said school social work interventions were shown, overall, to be effective in helping children and adolescents obtain skills to solve problems, improve peer relations and improve interpersonal functioning. According to Shroyer-Carlyle, the Asset Building and Collaboration program would provide two social workers and one trauma therapist – a total of three professionals that would be shared by Tennerton, Union and Hodgesville elementary schools.
“What we propose is the plan be systematic so it can be repeated,” Shroyer-Carlyle said. “This will give us measures to show we are improving the lives of children and families. We would start with planning and implementation. There would be a therapist that would complete an assessment and complete a plan. We would begin by working with the top three behavior issues in the classrooms and top three at home.”
She said the social worker in the classroom could help both the teachers and parents assess what the issues were.
“Then, the social worker could go into the home or the classroom – wherever they are needed,” she said. “Family or school interventions would begin based on what was needed. That would include transportation, referrals, classroom modeling of appropriate behavior and we would repeat the behavior charts after three months to see if these instances had decreased over time.
“We would have regular meetings with the internal staff of this program at Mountain CAP and have regular meetings with the school staff, so we could be on the same page and gather information and present information and make changes if behaviors need to be addressed – we would address these behaviors quickly [instead of letting] something go on too long that needs to be addressed.”
Shroyer-Carlyle told BOE members she also included the budget and a copy of the memorandum of understanding. The budget included funding for two social workers and one trauma therapist – Mountain CAP employees – who would travel between the three schools.
After at least a year, Mountain CAP officials expect the billing to pay for the therapist’s position, at which point, the county school system and Mountain CAP could look at expanding social work services.
Akers said the reason they opted not to try to implement the ABC program countywide is so the case load is manageable.
Board president Dr. Tammy Samples asked how the participating schools were selected.
“Data and based on our goal meetings,” Akers said. “They are where we saw the most need and where there was not access to Community Care. Hodgesville and Union do not have a clinic in them from Community Care. We were trying to spread that, so we are providing something throughout the entire county.”
Samples asked if the funding would be coming from the Title program and special education.
Upshur County Special Education Director Melinda Stewart said the funding to pay for the services would primarily come from the Title program and be billed through Medicaid.
“Isn’t there some caveat with Title funding that if we use Title funding to pay for that, we can never use other funds to pay for it?” Samples asked.
“Yes,” Stewart answered.
“So, we have the money this year to do this, and then next year, we don’t have the money. What happens to the program?” Samples asked.
“We have had those conversations. We are hoping the therapist would be self-sustaining and we would have to look for other funding sources for the rest,” Stewart replied.
Board vice president Katie Loudin asked whether the board had to vote on implementing the ABC program at Tuesday’s meeting.
“So, I am going to ask the fairly obvious question, because we all know what is on the agenda next week,” Loudin said. “We will be looking at reductions, transfers and ratios. Does this have to be decided upon today?”
Loudin was told it did not have to be decided today; however, once the agreement was approved, the positions would be posted. Mountain CAP officials expect it will take time to find qualified staffing. The agreement is for the 2019-2020 academic year.
“I am not opposed, but I want to know what our numbers are for RIFs and transfers and those things before I agree to spend $220,000,” Samples said.
BOE member Kristi Wilkerson agreed with Samples.
“In my opinion, we have to look at the whole budget, because that is such a significant number. But again, I am not opposed to it,” Wilkerson said.
“I don’t think any of us are opposed to it – we just need to have the whole picture,” Samples said. “I know there is a need. I try to ask questions to make sure we are being fiscally responsible. I think the plan is good.”
Samples also questioned the meetings that would be mandated by the ABC plan.
“Our teachers are already strapped for time. It’s just something I was wondering – how will this fit into our teachers’ time?”
“I think a lot of it will depend on the school and how they set things up,” Stewart replied. “Planning periods are an obvious time but that social worker will be the one in the meeting primarily and they will work out the scheduling.”
“Again, this is just until we have all of the numbers,” Samples emphasized.
“I am very excited about the potential of this program,” Loudin added.
During the Tuesday meeting, board members voted to accept the following personnel recommendations:
- Eric Fultz as custodian III at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, effective March 13, 2019.
Employment, pending appropriate certification and background check
- Approval of the following individuals as substitute cooks: Vera Yvette Pappas, Terri Ashby, Rebecca Jean Bennett and Amy Atwell.
- Approval of the following individuals as substitute aides: Terri Ashby, Rosemary Kolarik, Miranda Burnside and Jay Ann Thacker.
- Approval of the following individuals as substitute custodians: Rebecca Jean Bennett, Homer Brown, Charles Riley and Megan Shingleton.
Following the meeting, superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus and assistant superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison gave an update on Union Elementary School. School will be in session Thursday, March 21.
According to Stankus and Harrison, an electrical fault on Saturday caused extensive damage to lighting, heating and electrical equipment at the school, which was closed to students on Monday and Tuesday.
Stankus said there were four pallets of repair materials at the school Tuesday.
“We have four men from Mason & Barry Inc. in Charleston there on-site working,” Stankus said. “We have Tim Leggett there. The HVAC system at Union is completely blown out. All the light ballasts were blown and all of the GFI outlets were blown. It was significant.”
The next regular Upshur BOE meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School, when Reduction in Force (RIF) and transfer hearings will begin.