Valley Stream schools take proactive approach to mental health
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At the high school district, there are also teams of professionals that meet regularly including the support staff members, mental health professionals, nurses, administrators and representatives from the faculty. “Teachers know they can bring these students to the appropriate people’s attention,” Vogel said.
The future of mental health
With tightening finances in schools and the implementation of the 2 percent property tax cap, school officials say they hope they will be able to continue to fund these valuable programs and support positions.
School districts must have enough support available to meet the mandated services required for some students, but do not need anything beyond that. However, officials do not want to lose the support for other students and families.
Ensuring funding for social workers and psychologists in District 24 is an important part of the planning process, explained Superintendent Dr. Edward Fale. “You budget for those positions in the same way you budget for your classroom teachers,” he said. “They are an essential part of education.”
Fale said when he arrived in the district in 1998, there were only two mental health professionals in the district. That has since tripled. “We worked hard to build those positions up because we knew how vital those positions were,” he said. “We communicated the need to the community.”
In addition to the three psychologists, District 30 used to have two social workers, but one was eliminated in 2011 and the other was cut this past year, much to the dismay of parents and even some board members.
Board of Education Trustee Elise Antonelli, who served as president during those two years, said the decisions were made at the recommendation of the superintendent and based upon a very thorough analysis of the district’s mental health needs. Last year’s decision to cut the lone social worker was weighed against the community’s ability to pay for it. Ultimately, Antonelli said the board agreed that the students’ needs could still be met by the three psychologists.