UASD approves seeking social worker

Upper Adams School District (UASD) School Board approved the hiring of a district social worker Tuesday.

Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) grant funding recently came out of the state budget, and updates were previously presented by Superintendent Wesley Doll, who noted with PCCD funding, there are two “buckets” from which the district can spend the money: dual school mental health, and physical school safety at $126,086 each for a total of $252,172.

UASD Oct

A district social worker would address social and emotional concerns, attendance, and home visits, as well as act as a community service liaison, crisis team leader, and provide family support.

The board previously discussed that PCCD would pay the position salary for the first year and anticipating the position to begin in January Fiscal Year 2023, the district would then be on the hook for $26,000 in benefits, Business Administrator Shelly Hobbs said.

For FY24, the district would still use the PCCD grant for salary, paying around $40,000 for the benefit portion and by Fiscal Year 2025 the district would be fully loaded for salary plus benefits at $108,000.

“I think that we’ve determined that there’s a need, it’s just whether we can afford it,” Board President Tom Wilson said.

Board member Ron Ebbert noted the grant covers two portions, security, and mental health, and that he would rather be proactive in providing students mental health support and counseling to be able to work through problems than “waiting for a student to erupt and so forth,” he said.

 Social workers are not necessarily trained as counselors, Wilson said.

The social worker job description specially initials “connecting need with resource” according to Wilson, who noted that, while in theory, that description could be performed by someone already in the district, it would then constitute taking away from another job needing accomplishment.

Wilson had reservations that the district could continue on as before and improve.

The UASD board has undergone lengthy discussion regarding the need for resources and ultimately determined a School Resource Officer (SRO) was not the answer for students.

COVID-19 highlighted a weakness in school district mental health focus, according to Wilson.  

“If something happens and we have done nothing, we have some serious questions to answer later on,” Wilson said.

Before the board’s vote, at public comment resident Christian Parker vouched for social workers as experts of parent-student relations.

Parker spoke in favor of the position; crediting social workers as problem-solving community liaisons that don’t think outside the box because they don’t see a box in the first place.

On the other hand, resident Virginia Martin urged against the hiring of a social worker, questioning if there were so many district social issues that could not be handled by existing employees.

Martin voiced concerns if the social worker position would be a duplication to services already provided by the district and the associating costs.

Martin asked the board to remember that costs will continue to rise and the need to determine what is absolutely necessary.

“Where does our wish list end?” she asked.

In the last five years, UASD has had the second lowest tax increase in the county, Wilson said, and while the district would like to continue that, if it is an important enough issue, the district will find the resources to help students.

Board member Cindy Janczyk provided the sole no vote, stating she could not support the decision not knowing how the position would be supported long term when the grant funding runs dry. Although she could appreciate the need for the district, Janczyk said she had to weigh the effects on taxpayers.

The board’s approval set forth the district social worker job description for advertisement.

In other business it was noted,

·         UASD Canner Funds will participate in the annual Adams County Giving Spree November 3, noting the Canner Fund has grown tremendously over 12 years, according to Superintendent Wesley Doll.

“No donation is too small,” he said.

·         $500 was received from the American Legion Post 262 for fourth grade spirit wear.

“The board really appreciates the continued support from the American legion post,” Wilson said.

  • The district is in the process of developing a survey to gather anonymous feedback regarding community wide communications.

 The school board will next meet November 15 at 7 p.m.

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