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UASD discusses potential social worker

Continuing discussion regarding Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) grant funding, Upper Adams School District (UASD) School Board considered the need for a district social worker Tuesday.

The PCCD grant recently came out of the state budget, and updates were 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.

Each bucket has three tiers of guidelines to be followed in order to receive funding and the district has sat down to address which tiers have been satisfied and which still need to be tackled.

Within the physical safety bucket, one first-tier aspect the district can address is the installation of athletic field fencing and vehicle barriers, Doll said.

Within the mental health bucket, a more challenging aspect to address would be the requirement for a district social worker.

“The mental health of children is a huge area we are seeing a need for,” Doll said.

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.

Although the district addresses some of these aspects now including additional counselors , “it is not as focused and pinpoint as it could be…there is still a need we are finding within our district,” he said.

The $126,086 for mental health bucket is a one time payment over two years and could only be used for salary, not benefits. The PCCD funding could also cover the cost for the purchase of a district vehicle to fulfill job requirements.

After the funding runs out, there is an expectation for the district to continue the position unless the board wants to proceed as a pilot program and revisit the position at a later date, according to Doll. The district will not have access to future PCCD funding unless the met tiers are in place.

As the board had previously decided not to pursue a school resource officer, UASD still has a need to address student needs, even if the state were not offering to offset expenses upfront, Doll said.

The additional district counselors funded through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding are very hands on and are being used to their full advantage.

Recent data gathered over a previous September week shows that 157 students throughout the district have checked into the school guidance office for various reasons including social and emotional concern, academic needs,  and post-secondary needs, High School Principal Beth Graham said.

“In my opinion, the support of a person that could pull resources for families would greatly be a benefit to the families in our district,” Graham said.

Moving forward, if approved the board would decide how to include the position in the budget and the district would pick up the expense around 2025, according to Doll.

PCCD would pay the position salary for the first year and anticipating the position to begin in January Fiscal Year 2023, the district would 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.

Wilson invited the board to consider if the benefit to the students justifies paying the social worker salary and potentially raising taxes to cover the new position. In the past, the district has added new positions that were worth adding to the overhead of the district, he noted.

“Is the juice worth the squeeze?” he asked.

The board reached a consensus to continue toward the funding to provide the social worker service with the understanding of the ability to pull out if additional information arises.

Technology and career success

In other business, technology and career school enrollment for Canners is strong, Doll noted following a recent visit to Cumberland Perry Area Career and Technical Center to see program updates.

UASD currently sends 43 students to the tech and career center and are enrolled in 19 different programs, including cosmetology and early childhood education.  

In the 2021-2022 school year, UASD had 32 students who earned over 46 industry credentials, according to Doll.

Tech and career schools have evolved remarkably over the years and “their collaborations with a number of universities for programs is a stepping stone for our students,” he said.  

Through the vo-tech, students are able to get a leg up in more competitive fields, with some gaining internships and promising jobs already, according to Doll.

Last year UASD sent 100 students to tour the Cumberland Perry campus and the district looks to continue this to expose students to different types of opportunities.

“The future looks bright,” he said .  

IT department lauded

It was also noted, a citation of recognition was presented to the UASD Information Technology (IT) department as the backbone of support in addressing needs over the summer and into the school year.

“They have truly pulled a rabbit out of the hat,” Wilson said.

Together, Rita Lai, Anthony Hurkala and department head Josh Cantrell ensure USAD technology is operating smoothly for a 1,700-student body, over 140 staff, and all the connecting pieces including everything from business administration to classroom content delivery.

IT is now an essential aspect of education, “it’s not your father’s school,” Wilson said.

Football food drive success

In other business, a letter of gratitude was presented following a successful food drive hosted by the Canner Football team in support of Upper Adams Food Pantry at Kennie’s Market August 13.

Cash and food donations packed into two vehicles pulled in over $1,000 in groceries in two hours, according to Biglerville Mayor and Upper Adams Food Pantry Logistics Coordinator Phil Wagner.

“This letter represents what a small district does with community, and what the community does with a small school district. It is the best of who we are,” Wilson said.

  • The board approved technology replacements not to access $105,000 including a battery backup, server replacement and a core switch replacement.
  • A replacement water softener unit was approved for Biglerville Elementary School at an approximate cost of $16,700.
  • Dellinger Horticulture Enterprises, of New Oxford was given a head nod from the board to begin ordering materials in time to build the new greenhouse throughout the school year.  
  • Canner Funds now have a separate line item within the Adams County Giving Spree to fund the new district greenhouse.

The board will next meet for a Curriculum and Extra Curricular Committee and Business and Operations Committee October 4, and a regular board meeting October 18.

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A.L. Grabenstein, reporter, is a graduate of Philadelphia's La Salle University with a B.A in Communication and has been a journalist since 2016. She has reported for the Gettysburg Times and the Times Herald in Norristown, PA. Grabenstein moved to Gettysburg from Montgomery County in 2019. She was born in San Antonio, TX., and previously lived in Virginia, and North Carolina. Grabenstein is actively involved in the borough of Gettysburg and loves giving voices to the local community.

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  • Great story Annie! IMHO, the social worker would be worth every dollar. Learning for all students follows from good mental health for all students.

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