GESD OK’s intervention partnership

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education signed off last week on a memorandum of understanding with the Fulton County Department of Social Services for the new School Intervention Partnership Program that officials say has already had an impact on student attendance.

The memorandum of understanding approved by the school board during the Oct. 7 meeting will be in effect from Oct. 1 through June 30, 2020 for a program that will see a new SIPP caseworker hired by the county provide preventive services to families of at risk students identified by the school district.

The stated goal of the program is “to keep families together, reduce the number of Persons of Need of Supervision and Juvenile Delinquency petitions, reduce the number of Child Protective Services reports and reduce foster care placements.”

The SIPP caseworker will be assigned to the district full-time with a caseload of roughly 10 to 13 students of eligible families who accept services. The caseworker may provide services or referrals relating to case management, case planning, casework contacts, daycare, homemaker services, family planning, home management, clinical services, parent training, transportation services and emergency goods or shelter.

If the SIPP caseworker determines that a family is not eligible for preventive services, the individual will still provide temporary services to families that ask for help accessing services for up to 30 days.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors approved the contract between DSS and the school district to create the position in September. The county will be fully reimbursed for the cost of the position by the state and federal government and the school district.

The school district agreed to pay 25 percent of the cost of the position, including benefits, which is not expected to exceed $20,000 for the current term. District Treasurer Cathy Meher said GESD’s share will be covered through a Title I grant through the U.S. Department of Education.

GESD Superintendent David Halloran explained that the SIPP caseworker will focus on providing an early intervention to young students while still impacting older students by working with the families of students in kindergarten through fifth grade with poor attendance who may also have children in secondary grade levels.

“By working with the whole family the hope is that attendance is going to improve for all students, even those who are at the upper grade levels,” Halloran said. “It may be a while before we see the fruits of our labor, but it will occur. Students being here — they are going to learn, no doubt about it. There’s a connection between attendance and performance.”

Halloran last year identified improving student attendance as a major goal for the school district that was flagged by the state Education Department for high rates of chronic absenteeism, defined as a student missing 10 percent or more of a school year, equal to approximately 18 days or more per year.

For the 2018-19 school year the district reported as of May 14 that 587 students had 20 or more absences and 248 students had 20 or more unexcused absences.

Halloran said already this school year the SIPP caseworker has engaged with five families with 12 to 15 students most of whom have seen “significant improvement in attendance,” leading the caseworker to request additional families to work with.

“Relationships that have been built between the caseworker and the families are bearing fruit, the kids are here and are being successful in school,” Halloran said. “We understand that it’s only been a month, so those families will still be monitored, the caseworker will still be working with them, but they recognized in their own time allotment that they can probably take on more families.”

Halloran was cautiously optimistic about student attendance for the current school year noting that 348 students at Boulevard Elementary School making up 60 percent of the school were celebrated last week for perfect attendance in September.

“Obviously the weather’s been nice, I’d be shocked if we had that in February, but the fact is it’s on everybody’s mind, it’s constantly being pushed so I really hope that we’re going to improve student attendance,” Halloran said.