Thursday, February 7, 2013

Last December, a group of us, Lynbrook Moms,  were sitting around making paper snowflakes with which to decorate Sandy Hook Elementary's new school building, and we were debating how does such a tragedy occur? 
We wondered if there was any way to prevent our children from ever reaching the point of feeling so isolated, so angry or powerless, that they end up making desctructive decisions. 
No matter how enthusiastic, no matter how hard our Social Workers work (and they work very hard) to make connections with our children and bring vital programs to life in our buildings, we parents feel that 4 Social Workers divided between 7 buildings simply isn't enough. 
And so our parent driven letter was born. 
WE know these are very difficult ecomonic times, but we respectfully ask that you read our letter and please consider clicking on the link at the end and signing your name to our petition. 
Lynbrook School District Social Workers are like superheroes.  They handle all manner of crises with kindness and patience, and do their best to reach all of the students who need them.  One thing stands in their way, and that is: Time. 
Our Social Workers are shared between buildings.  Their assignments are as follows:
         Carol Woehr - Kindergarten, Waverly Park & Marion Street

         Sandra Gettenberg - West End & North Middle

         Karen Aquino - High School

         Roseanne Bogard - South Middle & High School
In the past, the District hired Social Workers through an agency.  Recognizing the importance of Social Workers invested in our children exclusively, Lynbrook School District wisely decided to move away from contracting through an agency and instead employed Social Workers directly.  This was a critical decision by the Administration and the Board of Education and has been much appreciated by parents and staff.  Now there are permanent Social Workers on staff, who are invested in our children, working with them from an early age, influencing not only those students assigned to them, but the entire population of students in our District.  The District went further by hiring additional Social Workers (1 part-time).  We parents applaud the District's forward thinking and ask that they continue to address our children's social-emotional needs by considering hiring a full time Social Worker for each building and 2 in the High School (as it has a larger population, and greater issues). 
Therefore, ideally we feel our children would benefit the most from having 8 full time Social Workers.  We feel they should have 1 Social Worker in every school, with 2 in the High School every day, full time and this is why:  The social and emotional education of our children is just as important as their academic education.

If there is a full-time Social Worker in each building, he/she would have the time needed to reach so many more of the students.  We would worry less about a student slipping through the cracks and becoming another teen suicide or responsible for a catastrophic act of violence.  Lynbrook has had 3 student suicides in approximately 8 years.  Although this is a sobering and devastating statistic, our Social Workers have saved a lot more lives!
Our Social Workers have wonderful programs that they could implement, if they had TIME! Our Social Workers want to advocate for families and children, to do so they need to be a more constant presence.  Students build relationships with the Social Workers and rely on their presence to get them through some tough times.  A students inability to access help when in the midst of a crisis can be so detrimental and even devastating.  Imagine having to say to a child who is in the middle of a crisis "hold onto those feelings of desperation until the Social Worker is back,"  or having to pull a Social Worker from another school who is not familiar with the child!

If we had a full-time Social Worker in each school, they could schedule time to do more outreach programs, to engage and instruct students and parents. They could push into classrooms, offering consistency and support, and form relationships with the students.  Students are more successful if they are connected to more adults. They could be visible and available during the lunch periods; currently they need to squeeze in their assigned students visits and groups during these times.  They could give classroom lessons and run more student groups based on specific needs, such as bereavement.   They could schedule parent meetings or parent/family coffee hours to keep parents informed and educated.  They could offer teacher training and sensitivity training to staff.  They could start in the Kindergarten Center with family workshops to ensure that mental health becomes part of the fabric of each students life.  We are aware of and appreciative of the current programs already in place in all the buildings.  However, the Social Workers have even more wonderful programs they could implement if they had the additional staffing.  The High School has the SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) club.  This could be pushed down into Lynbrook Middle Schools to help students avoid making poor decisions during these critical years. 

Our Social Workers want to form relationships with each child in our district, so that no childs social/emotional issues are neglected.  They understand that sometimes the students feel there is a certain stigma involved with speaking about their feelings. Reaching not just the at risk students but ALL students would help to normalize the idea that feelings can be discussed and, through that discussion, problems resolved.  Our students need to be properly equipped to cope with the stresses life will throw at them.  Their mental health should be a priority.  To serve the special needs population, one of the Social Workers additionally could be utilized as a Transition Coordinator and could meet with classified students beginning during the middle school years. This would provide special education students with learning activities and experiences designed to help them fulfill their potential for intellectual, emotional, physical, and social growth.  The Transition Coordinator could work with the classified students, their teachers and parents to systematically create individualized transition goals.

We often hear parents speak at Board of Education meetings asking what is the District doing about drug or alcohol use? What is the District doing about safety?  What is the District is doing about bullying?  If Lynbrook had more full time Social Workers, at each school, they could devote more time educating our children and their parents about these issues and teach them about good citizenship and healthy choices.

Full time Social Workers in each school will teach our kids the appropriate social skills to succeed. They not only help kids individually, but help them get along with each other.  This will lay the foundation for success in their future personal and business relationships. 

As parents in the Lynbrook School District, we are requesting the Administration and Board of Education consider hiring 4 additional full-time Social Workers.  Together, we recognize the intrinsic value for our students and communitys social health, emotional wellness, and overall safety.  
Yours respectfully,

A group of concerned Lynbrook Parents

Julie Bergin, Lori Borges, Denise Deputy, Karen Edelstein, Jennifer Hinderstein, Esther Marks, Randi Polansky, Nancy Wolfsohn

Please click here to open our petition and sign your name.