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Social-worker expansion complements well Mohip’s academic recovery plan



Published: Sat, December 31, 2016 @ 12:00 a.m.

True to his pledge to keep students first and foremost in mind in the healing process for the academiclly anemic Youngstown City Schools, district Chief Executive Officer Krish Mohip continues to make slow but steady progress.

The latest concrete sign of that student-focused philosophy permeating Mohip’s three-year plan for the academic recovery of the school system is visible in the hiring of 11 new social workers to serve the 5,300 students of the district.

As a Page 1 story in The Vindicator earlier this week reported, the new hires help to fulfill a critical portion of the recovery plan, approved earlier this month by the state-mandated Academic Distress Commission.

Mohip, a well respected veteran Chicago schools teacher and administrator, drafted the plan after taking the reins as the urban district’s first CEO six months ago under provisions of House Bill 70. That act was designed to rescue failing school districts such as Youngstown’s and gives Mohip broad authority to implement draconian policy changes with little or no interference from the elected board of education.

The wide expansion of social workers interacting with students complements well one of the most important planks of Mohip’s plan: Supporting the Whole Child.

The new hires clearly do just that. After all, a large degree of the turmoil and academic failure plaguing the district ultimately can be traced back to factors beyond the direct control of students, teachers or administrators.

ROADBLOCKS TO STUDENT SUCCESS

As Christina Scissum, an East High School social worker, put it, ‘‘Out kids come with a lot. A lot of our children come from single-family homes. We have homeless [students] and students with parents who are incarcerated. They are just trying to make it every day. We are helping them rise above whatever is going on in their life daily and make it.’’

Greater student-social worker interaction also holds promise because it goes beyond simply targeting students and identifying problems that weaken their academic potential. It also offers intervention services to solve the problems or at least lessen their adverse impact on a student’s ability to achieve heightened success in school.

“Our goal is to provide as much support and intervention as we can with home, school and the entire community. ... We are wrapping our arms and hearts around the kids in the community,” said Lori Kopp, special education executive director for the school district.

To be successful, we urge parents and guardians to monitor and support any and all intervention efforts.

The new wraparound services, coupled with a number of other initiatives crafted by Mohip in his first half-year on the job, enables the district to stand on the threshold of 2017 with valid and realistic hopes for measurable improvement and stronger student outcomes in the coming year. Such hopes have been virtually unthinkable for the district for far too many years.


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