, Muskogee, OK

January 23, 2013

Schools hope to hire service specialist

— By Cathy Spaulding

Times Staff Writer

Fort Gibson Schools officials hope to get a social worker at their schools by the start of February.

The district is contracting with the Department of Human Services to provide the worker, called a school-based service specialist. The district will split the cost of the specialists’ salary and benefits with the DHS.

Fort Gibson Superintendent Derald Glover said district would pay about $11,000, which he said is about half of what the district would pay a full-time counselor. The District and DHS will work on the contract next week.

Glover said the service specialist, which he hopes to have at the schools by Feb. 1, could help take up some of the duties of the school counselors.

He said the specialist would handle the entire district, but mainly focus on the elementary schools. Fort Gibson now has one counselor handling grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, about 836 students.

The district also has one counselor at the middle school and one at the high school.

A school based service specialist would enable the school counselor to focus on assessments and have “more time to spend truly counseling with the kids,” Glover said.

Oklahoma DHS program manager Shirley Lodes said school based service specialists mostly work with at risk students.

“These are kids who have some kind of problem,” Lodes said. “They cannot do therapeutic counseling, but they can talk to the kids and do home visitations.”

The specialist also can work with students’ families to see what they need. For example, the specialist can help hook a family up with the benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“If the child needs glasses, the specialist can help the child get glasses,” she said. “Many schools use school based specialists for attendance issues.”

Lodes said there are 80 service specialists serving Oklahoma school districts, including Wagoner, Muskogee, Tahlequah and Keys.

Assistant Wagoner Superintendent Doyle Bates said the district has one specialist working with elementary grades and one working with upper grades.

“If I have an attendance problem, I can contact them,” Bates said, adding that the specialists have had a positive impact on the district.

Muskogee has five DHS specialists, said Peggy Jones, district executive director of curriculum and instruction.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or