During the Northampton School Board meeting on Monday, September 11, board members and attendees observed a presentation from the district’s social work team.
Nicolette Teles, who is the supervisor of grants and special programs for the district, provided a presentation on the social worker’s role in schools with colleagues Steff Breininger who is a school-based social worker, Jenn Borzillo who is the K-12 counseling coordinator, and Jenn Getz who is also a school-based social worker.
Teles shared that school settings are being challenged more than ever to provide for students’ emotional, mental and physical well-being due to clinical anxiety and depression among youth, school safety, trauma informed education, recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities, changes in the family unit and family dynamics, and the effects of increasing social, economic and academic pressures on children.
Often, family variables can impact student achievement such as access to healthcare, transportation issues, homelessness, food insecurity, family dynamics, availability of appropriate services/waitlists, language barriers, cultural differences, time constraints, familiarity with how to navigate social services, and stigma about mental health treatment.
The number of students in at-risk groups is increasing every year and these students often need extra support. Students can go through crises at any time, but now the district has experts funded by grants who are there to support students and their families.
During the 2022-23 school year, district social workers received 96 referrals for students in elementary schools and their families, 62 referrals for middle schoolers, and 51 referrals for high school students for a total of 209 referrals. Of these referrals, 108 were for mental health needs, 42 were for financial needs, 37 were for housing/homelessness, and 28 were for grades and attendance.
Some of the future goals for the district’s social work team are to continuously revise NASD’s referral and documentation process, expand food insecurity programs at the building level, create a clothing and hygiene closet at Siegfried Elementary, assist with district goals that focus on mental health resources, community partnerships, and early childhood intervention programming, collaborate wand network with social workers from local school districts and establish a Lehigh Valley networking group, strengthen relationships and develop partnerships with local community organizers, engage in professional learning communities and complete PDE school social worker educational specialist certification for pre-K through 12.
For families that would like more information on what the district’s social work team can provide or for those that are in need of assistance and would like to request services, Teles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-262-7811 extension 20384.