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Albany County School District No. 1’s board voted last week to approve a new position, a mental health coordinator, which will “be responsible for developing and coordinating all student mental health programs.”

According to the job description, the position will be responsible for supervising mental health staff and coordinate efforts among school counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses.

Currently, school counselors report to their principals. Psychologists report to Steve Slyman, director of individualized instructional programs.

The new position will initially be funded through money provided by the federal CARES Act, the law passed by Congress in March that provides funding to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The anticipated mental health consequences of the pandemic led board chair Janice Marshall to suggest the district needs to better define the level of mental health services it intends to provide.

“I know we’re headed for a lot of needs in mental health, and I don’t know what our capacity is or what our intent is,” Marshall said during last week’s board meeting. “I think that’s going to need to be defined for our families and our staff, so they can know what to expect in the way of services for mental health issues. I think we might get to a point where we cannot meet all of those needs.”

The job description drafted by administrators initially only asked for candidates to have a master’s degree in a mental health field. However, the school board voted to list a Ph.D. as a preferred qualification.

“You’re talking about directing mental health services for thousands of people, and I don’t think (a master’s degree) is great enough for that position,” board member Lawrence Perea said, while noting that there are some candidates with a master’s degree who might have enough experience to take on the role.

Last week, the board also voted to allow administrators to hire a full-time instructional facilitator for the UW Lab School. Currently, the school’s instructional facilitator is also the school’s interventionist.

{p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 12pt; margin-bottom: 12pt;” dir=”ltr”}“We’ve seen Lab School enrollment increase over the last few years, mostly because we’ve increased its capacity,” Superintendent Jubal Yennie said. “We’re finding that we’re not delivering the same services that we do at other schools, primarily because the Lab School also serves K-8.”

{p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 12pt; margin-bottom: 12pt;” dir=”ltr”}The district also is adding another teacher for English language learners. Yennie said that position will be helpful to get more ELL students into the district’s dual-language immersion program.

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