The school administration proposes a significant increase in the mental health staff

The school administration proposes a significant increase in the mental health staff

Sunday, January 16, 2022 7:47 PM Last updated: Sunday, January 16, 2022 7:57 PM Published: Sunday, January 16, 2022 7:47 PM Joanne Wallenstein Hits: 105

At the same time as student enrollment at Scarsdale Schools was falling by over 200, staffing went in the opposite direction, increasing by 52 staff from 596 in 2014 to 648 full-time staff for the 2021-22 school year.

This trend is expected to continue if the Education Council approves the administration’s proposal to recruit more staff for the 2022-23 school year.

At a budget study meeting on Monday, January 10, the administration proposed increasing staff to meet growing mental health needs, introducing a new math program in elementary schools, and hiring additional cleaners and a groundskeeper. Also in the proposal is the switch from 14 part-time office clerks to seven full-time positions. All motions would increase the budget for the next school year by more than $1 million.

When asked why the need for mental health and special education in schools is growing, Assistant Superintendent Eric Rauschenbach listed a few contributing factors:

-First, the stigma surrounding mental health is decreasing and more and more students are asking for help.

-The number of students with special needs has grown and in the last five years the program has grown from 10 ICT classes (integrated co-teaching classes) to 19.

– The pressure to perform increases the stress of the students.

-The COVID crisis and distance learning have led to isolation, alienation and depression.

-In addition, the district strives to provide in-district services to students who have previously been outplaced at the district’s expense.

Specifically, the administration proposed the following Tier 1 staff requests in the 2022-23 school budget.

An elementary school mathematics teacher Assisted the district in introducing a new math program aligned to next-gen standards. This person would work with the current math coordinator. This program is expected to last only two years. Cost $110,000

A special education Teachers to work with students in the Bridge program on life skills during their transition from elementary school to middle school. Cost: $110,000

A psychologist, a special education teacher and an assistant to staff a new middle school student support program similar to a high school program. The program is designed to “help students manage anxiety and depression while teaching coping skills and instant feedback for specific behaviors. The focus is on maintaining a stable, positive environment while helping students develop their self-advocacy skills.” Cost $235,000.

A Educational technology specialist or middle school computer teacher to teach computer science and support technology needs. Cost: $110,000

A full time Social worker placed in middle schools to complement the work of Scarsdale Family Counseling Services’ three social workers to provide preventive programs and avert crises. Cost: $110,000

A full time psychologist for high school to meet the increased demand for counseling, assessment, and treatment for anxiety, eating disorders, and more. Cost: $125,000

A full time secretary to support the university psychologist. Cost: $65,000

A full time Social worker in high school to support increased mental health needs and “school programs on issues related to character development, wellbeing, and mental health.” Cost: $110,000

One half district wide CPSE Chairman to match the increase in the number of children with special needs in the district, which has increased from 409 in 2016-17 to 562 in 2021-22. Cost $55,000

The administration is also asking for supplies cleanser at the high school at a cost of $50,000, additional ground person at a cost of $55,000 and transitioning 14 part-time employee in 6 full-time positions.

Board members asked thoughtful questions after Andrew Patrick, Edgar McIntosh and Eric Rauschenbach explained the rationale behind the motions, which would increase the budget by more than $1,000,000.

Amber Yusuf inquired about the staffing of the high school’s Student Support Program and whether the current staff is coping with demand. Rauschenbach said: “This program has been busy since we started it. We are dangerously close to exceeding staff capacity.” Complementing a similar program at the middle school, Rauschenbach said, “By expanding this program to the middle school, we can intervene earlier. And a “middle school life skills teacher will enable some of these kids to earn a regular high school diploma and gain work experience before graduation.”

When asked how many students this new program would support, Rauschenbach said it would serve “five students moving up to middle school.”

Regarding the hiring of an elementary school math teacher to support the rollout of the new math program, McIntosh said, “The assignment was to establish and roll out a new math program and support it for the next two years.” This new position is in addition to another district-wide math support teacher — or “helping” teacher.”

Karen Ceske asked: “What is the long-term financial impact of an increase in staff? How many of these are permanent or tenure track positions? Drew Patrick replied, “If they’re full-time positions, they’re tenure track.”

Karl fingers said: “We’ve had reasonable increases in staffing over the past five years with declining enrollments. Can you show us the various additional categories of staff – in addition to the breakdown by school?”

He asked, “Is the math help for the teacher permanent?” Mcintosh said, “It would be a current homeroom teacher who would fill that role for two years.”

Finger also asked, “What will be the total net dollar difference to move those 14 part-timers to seven full-time positions? Patrick replied, “The maximum is $105,000.”

Rauschenbach said he will provide more details on the number of students who have transferred to the district in a presentation on special education at the next board of education meeting. However, he said, “There’s about a $65,000 saving” for every student who is mentored in the district and not misplaced.

Bob Klein said: “I understand there is a general trend of moving services and students back to the district. Is there an analysis of the long-term costs of using outside providers versus providing services in the district to see what is most cost-effective for functions like catering and transportation?

Stuart Mattey said: “Yes, the office is doing these analyses.”

Explaining the growing need for special education staff, Rauschenback said, “Part of the appeal of moving here is our special education skills – so it’s growing. We have gone from 10 ICT sections (integrated co-teaching classes) to 19 sections in the last five years.”

Ron Schoolyard asked: “Is this proposal designed to address mental health needs during COVID – or is it still ongoing? Will mental health return to normal?”

Rauschenbach responded, “We saw trends moving in this direction before COVID, but COVID has amplified that trend…if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be asking for a psychologist and a high school social worker.” We will continue to look at these positions. This is not a COVID specific need.”

Schulfhof said: “What’s going on with our children in the schools? I’d like to delve deeper into what’s going on.”

Patrick said about the school enrollment forecasts: “At the moment we are at 4,612 students. Enrollment is based on the replacement of the outgoing senior class with the incoming kindergarten class. The trend is towards smaller kindergarten classes in relation to the final classes. For next year we expect the same number of sections as this year.”

When asked about the increase in the number of cleaners, Stuart Mattey said: “Our improved routine that we used during COVID has become our regular routine. That’s why we’re asking for additional cleaning staff.”

This presentation was a first request, the first in a series of budget meetings over the coming months. Watch the presentation here.

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