The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 16, 2014

Support services critical for students

The recent article about the availability of school counselors in the Mankato Public Schools is a good reminder of the important role school psychologists, school counselors, and school social workers play in achieving ISD 77’s mission of “assuring learning excellence and readiness for a changing world.”

We all know that classroom teachers are the critical school ingredient for student’s academic success. Yet, other school personnel play a critical role — especially for students struggling with learning difficulties, mental health issues, poverty and challenges within their families.

Collectively, school psychologists, counselors and social workers, working as a team, provide specialized instructional student support. Through collaboration between these three professional fields and school personnel, students are provided a continuum of services that support their academic success and result in an increased school completion rate. The recent article focused on one discipline — school counselors.

Notably absent was an examination of the role that school psychologists and school social workers play within the district to compliment the services provided by the school counselors. In addition, the article mentioned nothing about school nurses who also play an important role, especially with students experiencing major acute health and chronic health conditions.

The story noted where Minnesota ranks in terms of school counselors. This leaves one to wonder, where does Minnesota rank in the number of school psychologists, school social workers and school nurses to students? The article reported that the “district for years had two social workers.” This is not precise. For the better part of 30 years the school district had only one school social worker. Six years ago that number was increased to two, four years ago to three, and during this current academic year the number increased to six.

It would be easy for me as a social work professor to extol only the virtues of my chosen profession. For example, social workers are educated to take a person-in-environment perspective, meaning they are trained to focus on the whole child and to understand how the larger context — peers, family, classroom, school, immediate neighborhood and larger community contributes to success or poses obstacles to success that must be removed.

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