Long strides in Saugus

This article was published 6 year(s) and 2 month(s) ago.

Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi said he hopes to bring new social worker to the district by August 1. (Owen o'Rourke)

Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi plans to hire will go into the community and help students in their homes and with their families.

Saugus’ School Department reinforced its reputation as a district committed to innovation this week by ensuring $100,000 from the school budget will be spent on hiring two new social workers.

“Adjustment counselors,” as they have traditionally been called, work with students going through emotional difficulties linked to a variety of causes. But the counselors Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi plans to hire will go into the community and help students in their homes and with their families.

Hiring social workers is just the latest step by DeRuosi with School Committee and town administration support to shove education in Saugus deep into this century. Town voters signed off on an ambitious plan to reorganize, rebuild existing schools, and construct new ones.

One foundation of that plan is to reorient education so that academics and school organizational structures are built around the ways students grow and mature from elementary school into middle and high school.

Saugus is going to become a model for other school districts with its school reorganization and the decision to bring emotional support out of school buildings and into homes. There was a time decades ago when teachers played the role of supplementary parent during school hours and the price for not listening to a teacher was trouble at home.

Conversely, 20th century educators left in parents’ hands the care, feeding and emotional upbringing of children. Mental health care has advanced by leaps and bounds since the 1960s and educators and medical professionals understand the close connection between stable home life and productive classrooms.

DeRuosi talks about “wrap-around service” when he explains how students, their families, schools, and other people who provide students with services, can work together to improve student health and classroom success.

The decision to hire social workers isn’t just aimed at helping students do better in school. The workers are a potential bridge between parents’ concerns and frustrations and the opportunity town educators have to help them.

If teachers, principals and parents can communicate about a child’s emotional challenges with the help of social workers, everyone wins, academically speaking. Bridging the home and school gap with social workers also helps span the divide between the academic help children get in school compared to what they receive at home.

It is a cliche to suggest 21st century students face distractions, including unhealthy ones, that keep them from focusing on learning and doing well in school.

But DeRuosi, reflecting the same innovative spirit that helped him work with town officials to conceive a school reorganization, calls hiring social workers “an innovative model.”

“If we could pilot it and make it work here, I think other districts could use this and benefit from it,” he said.

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