G’town joins schools hiring social workers

GERMANTOWN–The Board of Education approved the immediate search for, and hiring of, a social worker for the district, at its February 8 meeting.

Student needs in the areas of counseling and social work were discussed before the unanimous vote. “We’re seeing an increased need in students this year, for this service,” said Superintendent Susan L.S. Brown, adding that superintendents in other districts report a similar increased need.

The difference between this post and that of the school psychologist, who already works for the district, is that the social worker can make home visits and make contact with outside agencies on behalf of students and families. If the student is eligible for Medicaid, the district can bill Medicaid for reimbursement.

The salary for the unexpected hire will come from unused funds budgeted for a teacher of English as a second language. A late frost last spring reduced the local apple crop, which in turn lowered the number of migrant workers in the district last fall, and that resulted in fewer ESL students.

A mental health satellite clinic “is still on the table,” Ms. Brown said during the meeting. “We would love to have it, and we’re working on the details.

Ms. Brown was referring to another event last spring, when the county Board of Supervisors authorized the Department of Human Services to create a mental health satellite clinic, with a psychiatric social worker, at the Germantown School.

Last fall the school board turned down the clinic because of contract language, Ms. Brown said Monday. Specifically, “the intermunicipal agreement would have the board of education assume total liability for what would be the county’s employee, including negligence,” Ms. Brown explained. “Our attorney recommended that we not assume such an extreme amount of liability.”

The school board asked the attorney to work with the Board of Supervisors “in the hope that wording could be changed in some manner,” said Ms. Brown. “I have yet to hear the most recent information. It’s frustrating, and I hope we’ll come to an agreement.”

The county’s psychiatric social worker would see children and family members who were already being cared for at the county Mental Health Center in Hudson. The Germantown satellite office would be a convenience for taxpayers in the district, Ms. Brown noted, “and even better if the patient is a child, who could be seen here in the school building.”

The district had the service several years ago, said Ms. Brown, who was a teacher and elementary school principal in the district before becoming superintendent. She said she did not know why the service had ended previously, except for lack of funding.

The new school social worker will see students whether or not they are patients at the Mental Health Center. “We want to support students in all areas,” said Ms. Brown.

In other business at the February 8 meeting, Jonathan Boehme, the district’s new treasurer, began the budget process with an overview of the district’s estimated revenues. By February 14 adjustments were already being made to this estimate, but in the meantime, Mr. Boehme’s report is posted on the district’s website, germantowncsd.org.

New York State is working with district property values from 2013-14, which showed a decrease in contrast to previous years. State aid generally goes up this year about 5%, but that doesn’t make up for the loss in property values, said Mr. Boehme.

The district’s state aid in software, library and textbooks will go down 7% because of the decrease in students–the 30 or 40 children of migrant workers that had been expected. The student count is taken annually on October 1, when their parents would have been picking apples. In October 2014 state statistics showed 7% of Germantown’s students to be Hispanic/Latino.

In a small district like Germantown (which includes all or parts of the towns of Ancram, Clermont, Gallatin, Livingston and Taghkanic) a few students more or less make a big difference in funding.

The maximum allowable tax levy for 2017-2018 is $8,785,770, or 4.2% more than the 2016-17 levy of $8,593,007. Once the state budget—due April 1—has passed, state aid figures will be firm.

In the meantime, following is the schedule for the district’s budget process: March 8 board meeting, operational and general support budget; March 22 board meeting, instructional and debt service budget; April 12, board adopts final budget; May 3, budget hearing; May 17 the district votes on the budget and for two board seats.

In the board election, the top vote-getter will win a four-year seat, and the candidate with the second-highest number of votes will have a term that runs from May 17, 2017 to June 30, 2018, when Jeremy Smith’s term would have ended.

Faydra Geraghty, who is filling in now for Mr. Smith, has said she will not run for school board this spring. Tammi Kellenbenz, board president, will complete her four-year term this spring. Via email, she said Tuesday, “I plan on running again. I would like to serve another term to see the completion of the building project!”

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