School board seeks social worker for each school

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The Naugatuck Board of Education wants to see a social worker in each of the borough’s school.

NAUGATUCK — School officials are pushing for one full-time social worker in each of the district’s 10 schools.

“It’s important to have all students have access to that support,” Assistant Superintendent of Schools Brigitte Crispino said Thursday at a school board meeting.

The district currently employs 10 social workers. All of them are assigned to special education students except for one, who works full-time at Naugatuck High School.

Some social workers, in addition to their special education work, are assigned to City Hill Middle School and the borough’s elementary schools. A first-year social worker makes about $54,000, and the total budget for school social workers this year is about $826,000.

New state anti-bullying laws require schools to spend more time investigating and reporting bullying incidents. More social workers could be needed to intervene, board members and administrators said.

The topic came up when a parent, Julie Vostinak, asked what schools were doing to find out why some students become bullies.

Bullies at Naugatuck High School, for example, are disciplined, but they also meet with a social worker to determine what could be causing them to lash out against others, Principal Janice Saam said.

“If discipline in and of itself fixed it, we’d have no bullying,” Saam said.

Board of Education Chair David Heller said he would like a full-time social worker for every school to be included in the board’s budget proposal, which will be presented at the end of April to the Board of Finance.

“Our K to 4 schools share half a social worker,” Heller said. “Bullying happens at the elementary level, too.”

While preparing the school board’s budget request, Business Manager Wayne McAllister is asking representatives of every school what they would like to include. Several requested a full-time social worker, McAllister said.

Board member Diana Malone said she and others toured every school and asked principals for wish lists.

“Almost every single principle said they would like to see a full-time social worker,” Malone said.

City Hill Middle School asked for the lower grades to have full-time social workers, so that students in need of help receive it before the seventh grade, Malone said.

The school board formulates an initial budget request every year with more full-time social workers, but that expenditure has never survived the cutting room floor, Heller said.

“There’s only so many educational dollars, and we try to divide it equally among all the students who need it,” Heller said.