Committee: Social worker important for Rochester school

Jan 17, 2014

When Rochester Memorial School hired an assistant principal last year it lost a full-time social worker, and the situation may be affecting some students.

“We are really working hard with the new model this year,” Assistant Principal Charles West said Thursday night. “This is not necessarily a sustainable model as it currently is.”

West had been one of two social workers employed at the school. After his promotion the position was left vacant.

At the committee’s request, Principal Derek Medeiros gave a report on how the social worker was managing with additional students.

“This looks like a big workload to me,” said Chair Michelle Cusolito.

The social worker offers students support outside of the classroom. Students in need receive counseling and the social worker is dispatched to address behavioral issues.

Medeiros said using “responsive classroom” techniques in the school has helped with behavior issues. The method establishes a sense of community among students and teachers. A positive, proactive environment is encouraged.

But the school day offers a variety of challenges.

“For certain situations responsive classroom is good, but there will be situations that a social worker is needed who knows how to counsel students,” Medeiros said.

With town and school officials possibly having to cut  $200,000 from the school budget the position may not be funded soon; however, administrators and committee members stressed its importance.

Director of Student Services Teresa Hamm said part of the social worker's role is to meet with parents to discuss student progress and to address behaviors at home, before a classroom disruption takes place.

“I’m very clear in that I think this is a very necessary position,” Hamm said. “One person is insufficient to do everything that’s expected.”

Medeiros will gather more information for the committee. Committee member Tina Rood asked Medeiros to keep the focus on students.

“Give us a student perspective on how not having these services available affects our students,” she said. “We’re dealing with real people and real families.”