By Mark Reynolds
Within the Marlboro school budget for next year is a proposal to have a Social Worker at the high school at a cost of $105,000. This year the position was paid for through a grant and the district is now considering keeping the position for the 2022-23 school year and perhaps beyond.
Meghan Febbie, Director of Special Education, explained that, “Right now, our students are broken, they are struggling.” She said a large number of assessments are done on a weekly basis and help from the social worker has been critically important.
“Students are coming to the social worker with major concerns. Not only is the social worker able to support the students but they are there to support the staff,” she said.
Febbie pointed out that many families in the district are struggling to find the help they need for their child.
“There are not enough mental health workers in the community. We have parents waiting weeks and sometimes months for an appointment and sometimes reaching out throughout multiple counties to find the next available appointments.”
Febbie said during this past year the social worker has been “invaluable, not only working in the school but also making home visits. Without the social worker here I could not imagine the high school being able to function.”
Febbie is very passionate about this issue because, “our students have not even been open to learning because of the social and emotional struggles they’re facing. It’s a variety of different factors, but mental health concerns are definitely there and the social worker has been a key component in keeping the students safe in school and in getting the support that they need.”
Board member Patricia Benninger said keeping the social worker at the high school would be, “invaluable to us, in my opinion.”
Febbie noted that this proposal is specifically for the high school as the present need is so great at that level.
“We’re talking at least about 39 sessions of counseling a week that’s scheduled. That’s without crisis or drop-ins,” Febbie said. “We do have a social worker at the middle school and two at the elementary level.”
High School Principal Ryan Lawler supports this ask for a social worker, saying, “there is no question that we are under crisis and our request is that it continue for next year.”
Social Worker Meghan Vigeant described what she faces on a daily basis.
“I do my best to support all the students that need it and I look at each student as an individual person and what do they need. We are seeing an increase in anxiety, for sure. They are clearly telling us that they need the mental health support,” she said.
School board president John Cantone said this position is a high priority for the board and they can continue revisiting this issue in the coming years to see how well it is working.
Board member James Mullen fully supports this position.
“We need to make real investments in the health and well being of our teachers, of our staff and our students and it’s going to cost us money. It is going to increase the budget. A $58 million budget may look like a $60 million budget next year and it may be something we have to keep long-term because the ramifications of what our children and our staff are going through.”
Mullen pointed out that making these investments now may avert tragedies in the future.
“We don’t want to be going to funerals for students or staff in our district,” he said. “Maybe we need to make that social worker a tenure track position and utilize that grant money to give more support to them right now.”
Superintendent Michael Brooks said the March 3rd board meeting will focus on the Elementary School and on Student Services and he will provide the board with an up-to-date view and understanding of the district’s needs and finances in this area.