When third-grade math scores plummeted and reading scores dropped last school year at the Springfield Academy of Excellence, Principal Edna Chapman realized that many of her 242 students have “exceptional needs that aren’t necessarily academic.”
The K-6 charter school this fall won a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Education for $504,713 to dramatically expand its limited school counseling program.
It’s a lot of money, but as Chapman noted, “We have a lot of need.”
The year-round school at 623 S. Center St. — one of three charter schools operating in Springfield — was among 60 schools selected for the grant from a pool of more than 600 nationwide.
Currently, the academy employs a part-time counselor and hires a social worker on an hourly basis as needed, Chapman said.
The three-year grant will be used to hire a full-time school counselor and a part-time licensed social worker. The money also will be used to employ the services of a school psychologist to lead weekly support groups, such as for grief and anger management, and to beef up professional development and training not only for staff, but for parents.
Now in its 12th year of operation, the school’s mission is to develop what it calls the “whole child.” But kids are coming to them already broken.
“Children are coming in with more needs than we anticipated,” Chapman said. “We didn’t have the expertise to deal with them well enough.”
Chapman sees a direct correlation between behavioral problems and the school’s standing with the state. The academy recently was placed on academic watch by the Ohio Department of Education.
“Children who develop well learn well,” she said.
It takes more to educate kids than it used to, she said.
“Anybody who gets more counselors is ahead of the game,” said Cheryl Eresman, president of the Miami Valley Counseling Association and a professional clinical counselor in Springfield.
“They’re diagnosing bipolar disorder in first graders now,” she added.
The level of care the academy hopes to provide is unique for a private school, Eresman said.
“I’m sure those people will find plenty to do,” she said.
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