By Southern Torch Staff
DeKALB COUNTY, Ala. — Recently, the DeKalb County Board of Education received notice that the DeKalb County School System would be awarded grant money from the Alabama Anti-Bullying and Safe Environment Initiative to hire a social worker, or a mental-health counselor, within the DeKalb County School System; however, according to Dr. Jason Barnett, DeKalb County School Superintendent, the school system wanted to take this initiative further. “Once we realized we were receiving these funds, the Board and I quickly worked to appropriate additional funds to place two mental health counselors in our schools. We understand the need to meet students' social, emotional and physical needs first and foremost. Only then can we provide the quality of education that we desire and the students deserve.”
Barnett added, “Social workers assist students in overcoming barriers to the learning process. School social workers work with students, parents, teachers, and administrators to identify and address emotional/mental, social, and concrete needs that often interfere with the student's ability to achieve academic success. Social workers are highly-trained professionals who provide a wide range of services and support the school and students in overcoming issues such as attendance problems, social anxieties, behavioral struggles, substance abuse, avoidance of destructive decisions, and other personal and/or societal issues.”
At the October 17, 2019, meeting, the Board hired the placement of Mr. Otis Washington as a social worker. Mr. Washington is no stranger to DeKalb County and its schools, having served at DHR, Dekalb County Children's Advocacy Center, and, most recently, at the DeKalb Youth Services Center, a partnership between DeKalb County District Judge Steve Whitmore, DeKalb County Schools and Fort Payne City Schools. “I was pleased to learn of Mr. Washington’s interest in this position. I have always been impressed with Mr. Washigton’s skill, compassion and passion for his work and for youth who are in need of support- no matter what that support may be,” Dr. Barnett added.
The DeKalb County Board of Education is expected to hire the second social worker at its regularly scheduled November meeting. “It is my goal to support the whole student to help him or her achieve success. With that comes a desire to meet the students where they are and help them meet their goals socially, emotionally, academically, and, ultimately, in their careers. I believe this is another step to do just that,” Barnett concluded.