Rantoul schools board hears calls for full-time social worker
The Rantoul City Schools board is not ready to make a decision on a proposal to hire a social worker at J.W. Eater Junior High School.
Board member Bill Sweat proposed the hiring at last month's meeting as Eater experiences increased difficulty with some children. But board President Kevin Modglin said Thursday night he wanted more information before voting.
"Hiring a social worker is a loose term. What is the job description?" Modglin said.
Sweat said information about a U.S. Department of Education program was readily available on the Internet. He said $40 million had been allocated for the social worker program nationwide.
Superintendent Bill Trankina said the school employs a social worker three days a week and a psychologist two and a half days a week.
Board member John Brotherton said teachers have told him a full-time social worker is needed. "The need is there," Brotherton said. "They feel overwhelmed. They desperately need help."
The board heard a similar call from Maria McCarthy, an Eater math teacher for six years who formerly taught first grade. She said children are facing more serious issues now than just 10 years ago.
McCarthy cited one of her former first-grade students who came into the classroom visibly upset. He said his mother had spent all their money playing bingo and there was no money for breakfast.
Another child told McCarthy she was tired because two adults in her home had been fighting the night before, and police came to arrest one of them.
"We have kids at the junior high lashing out," said McCarthy, who added that many children don't have parents at home to speak with about problems. "We don't have bad kids; we have troubled kids who make bad decisions," she said.
Rantoul police Officer Kevin Kaiser serves as a school resource officer, and McCarthy said more help is needed. She said the part-time social worker at Eater does not do counseling because there is no time.
Sweat proposed the measure last month after a parent's report that he had transferred his sixth-grade stepson to Fisher due to bullying at Eater.
Sweat said parents told him during his recent campaign for a school board seat that there were bullying problems at Eater.
The board tabled the issue and agreed to form a committee for further study.