Prairie South overcoming administrative challenges

Nathan Liewicki
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Division staff stretched, responsibilities increased

Administrative issues in the Prairie South School Division (PSSD) have led to a bevy of responses to deal with certain student situations. 

Before the start of the 2013-14 school year, PSSD slashed the equivalent of roughly two counsellor positions. The loss of those positions resulted in the division having to perform a counsellor redesign.

“We went from 6.3 to 5.5 student and family counsellors and from one to zero student mentors,” PSSD Superintendent of Learning Lori Meyer told the Times-Herald Tuesday.

In order to deal with the loss of these two positions, Prairie South student and family counsellors have focused their work at the classroom level. Engaging with entire classrooms of students, small groups of students and even providing one-on-one counseling support have been some of the division’s strategic approaches to this issue.

The division has, however, had to rely on outside agencies to provide support to students. This has resulted in continuity, communication and confidentiality challenges.

“When they are not our employee it becomes more difficult to share information freely,” said Meyer. “If the service provider is our employee it becomes much smoother to work collaboratively. It's not that we don't work collaboratively with other service providers, but obviously there are benefits to having them employed by Prairie South.”

Another issue PSSD is dealing with is the increasing number of children entering school with significant behaviour challenges that require immediate and ongoing support.

Psychologists, speech and language pathologists and students support consultants are some of the professionals that provide support to students with behaviour challenges.

“While there are multiple agencies involved, at the end of the day theses students are in our classrooms,” Meyer told the board. “It's an ongoing issue that consumes a lot of time and energy by a lot of people in order to try to get things moving forward.”

Some of the partner agencies PSSD works in tandem with include Social Services, mental health and the Moose Jaw Police Service.

However, Meyer noted parent engagement and acceptance of outside supports has been quite challenging.

“It generally comes, I believe, out of fear,” said Meyer, regarding the lack of parental engagement. “But there's just stigma and fear that comes with those other agencies.”

She added it’s possible some parents may have had poor experiences with past encounters with outside support agencies.

Still, Meyer believes the division’s proactive approach to providing support to students with behaviour challenges is important and better than a reactive approach to dealing with situations. 

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Times-Herald, Social Services, Moose Jaw Police Service

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