MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

January 21, 2013

For FG schools, a social worker

District, state to split expense of new employee

— Fort Gibson Schools officials hope to get a social worker in the district by February.

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

Fort Gibson Superintendent Derald Glover said the 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 could help take up some of the duties of school counselors.

He said the specialist would handle the entire district but focus on elementary schools. Fort Gibson now has one counselor for 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 counselors to focus on assessments and have “more time to spend truly counseling with the kids,” Glover said.

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

“These are kids who have some kind of problem,” she 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 connect a family with 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 Public Schools has five DHS specialists, said Peggy Jones, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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