FCPS salutes its school social workers for all they do
2021 School Social Work Week
The challenges of providing support during a global pandemic and during the safe transition back to in-person learning are no match for the social workers across Fayette County Public Schools. “Even when families and students – and even staff – are at their wit’s end or last hope, a social worker is there to shine that light and say ‘No, we’ve got more to do. There’s more ahead of you,’” said Shericka Smith, interim coordinator of school social workers. “That’s what we do – no matter what. Social workers are built for this, and it’s definitely where they thrive.”
Smith took the opportunity to send special thanks to her team during national School Social Work Week (March 7-13), whose theme is “Beacon of Hope … Lighting the Way.” She also shared out messages from Kentucky leaders:
The three dozen social workers in FCPS, who primarily serve in Title I schools, provide myriad resources for students and their families. They can also pivot as needed, as during the pandemic. “It’s definitely increased the workload because a lot of families have reached out,” Smith said. “Our social workers have been creative and met those needs over Zoom or other virtual platforms. The work never stops – the needs are just different during COVID.”
Social workers collaborate with teachers on helping students succeed, carry caseloads and offer psychotherapy, and make home visits as needed. “A lot of times the word ‘social worker’ comes with a negative connotation, so we do a lot of explaining. Sometimes we introduce ourselves as ‘student support’ to reduce that stigma,” Smith said. The aim is to reduce or remove barriers to learning, so the social workers also work closely with Family Resource Center and Youth Services Center coordinators, assist with attendance and truancy issues, and build bridges between schools and community agencies.
“The overall goal is to meet any type of physical or emotional needs. I also reach out to the family for their concerns. Then I begin to implement different strategies or interventions to alleviate whatever issues – anxiety, depression, grief, food (scarcity) – and help get those needs met,” said Tonisha Broadus, who serves at Southern Elementary. For her, the best part of the day is meeting with children. “They’re always so excited to see you,” she said.
Seth Krusich, in his fifth year at Leestown Middle School, agreed. “My favorite part is building relationships with students and families. Having these three years in middle school, watching them grow from little kids to young adults is really cool,” he said. “I feel like this is my niche.”
Amid COVID-19 limitations, Krusich has made things work. “We couldn’t see the kids in person so everything had to be via email, online, or over the phone. I did Zooms throughout the week, checking in with kids, and continued with small groups. The real challenge was the new students, the sixth graders, who don’t really know me or know what I do,” he said. To foster familiarity, Krusich built a Student Support website featuring Leestown’s guidance counselors, the district mental health specialist, Youth Services Center coordinator, and school psychologist. “Kids can stay connected with us and learn what we do even if they’re not in the building,” he said.
Krusich said the staff is ready to move past the lonely, too-quiet time on campus and welcome more students back in person. “Every day I wake up, I’m so grateful to get to do this as part of a great team,” he said. “At the bottom of everything we do, even if it’s just for one student each day, if you’re that one person who listens or talks to them and helps them get through their day, I feel like I’ve done my job.”
(Posted March 11, 2021)