At the May 2 meeting of the ISD 318 School Board, District Superintendent Bruce Thomas spoke about mental health issues within the district.
The board had previously identified school-based mental health services as a priority. Thomas characterized mental health issues in the district as prevalent. The district provides excellent opportunities in the areas of education, instruction, curriculum and programming but an area in need in is mental health.
Thomas said that an initial proposal to the board for providing mental health services to district students bore a cost of $920,000. “At this time what we are attempting to do is to look at ways for us to be as economical and practical as feasible for us to be able to deliver those services.”
Thomas then outlined a two-pronged approach for addressing mental health issues within the district. The first phase would involve augmenting mental health workers who are already on staff. “We are asking that we have some school-based mental health workers and councilors to work with us in the area of mental health to compliment the staff we already have.” Thomas said the cost of hiring additional staff would be about $260,000.
The second phase of the measure would have the district tap into existing resources in the community to bolster its initiative. Thomas said that the district is seeking a Request For Proposals (RFP) to accomplish the second phase of the plan. The district isn’t looking for a long-term commitment with the RFP but rather a shorter commitment that would allow reflection after one year to evaluate the program’s success. “I look at this as a work in progress; I look at this as a first step,” said the superintendent.
Thomas said he didn’t think these measures would meet the board’s goals entirely but that it would be a step forward. Administration would be returning to the board with adaptations and modifications to the plan in the coming year.
“We want to be as supportive and as collaborative as possible with agencies in our community that are also working to address this very important topic,” said Thomas.
The board voted in favor of seeking RFPs in the area of school-based mental health services. The matter would return to the board prior to any contract approval.
After the vote, Director Pat Medure asked Thomas to explain the funding of the RFP. Thomas referred the question to Brent Brunetta, special education director. Brunetta said that there were opportunities that included a school-based mental health grant. “There are a number of pieces that have been in motion across the state and anything that surfaces as we move forward we want to be able to have these agencies access.”
Thomas than offered a few comments on the role of any agencies in the proposal. “When we do have outside agencies providing services to the children we serve, this school district has the obligation and the responsibility to have overall supervision and overall direction as to where we’re headed with those services versus an outside agency that is responsive to its own agency.”
In other business, the board:
• Listened to comments from marching band member David Fitch who conveyed the band’s message of disappointment in the board’s decision to terminate Assistant Band Director Chad Snyder.
• Voted to hire 20 teachers, three Special Education Coordinators, and accepted one retirement.
• Voted to approve the recertification of Rochelle VanDenHeuvel as ISD 318’s identified official with authority for MDE.
• Approved a land swap with the United States Geological Survey that requires the District to construct a building for USGS at a cost of $298,175.
• Approved a request to post additional positions.