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Working Together Towards a Common Goal

I started working as a social worker and project manager for CIS in January of 2009. This year I started at my third school, Watauga Elementary. I have to say that starting at a new school is just like starting a new job all over again. You have to make many adjustments such as handling new policies, a new environment, new staff, and, most importantly, new students. Each school seems to have a different set of needs, which is something else you must acclimate to. Every school I have worked for has been full of supportive staff and amazing students and for that I feel truly blessed.

One of the first things we learn in our training at CIS is how crucial it is to find the people in your school who will play a big part in helping you serve your students. Changing schools has taught me that these people are different in every school. In my experience, the school counselor has always been my right arm. We have always relied heavily on one another to meet the needs of our students and families. Although I am working with an amazing counselor this year, I have come to learn that our school nurse takes on the role of social worker quite often. Nurse Junge has played a vital role in my ability to serve the students and families at Watauga Elementary. She referred many of my current students and continues to inform me of their needs on a daily basis. If something is going on at this school, she knows about it and she makes sure that I know about it, too. My working relationship with Nurse Junge has made it possible for her to trust me and is critical in my ability to do a good job. This trust has made it possible for me to provide resources and services to many of the students and families at Watauga Elementary. I have learned that being able to identify the key people in your school and build relationships with those people is just as important as any service we provide to our students. The people we connect with and the relationships we nurture are the key to running a successful program.

Heather Yeubanks


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Helping Students Beyond the Classrom

Less than a week before the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year I was told I would be placed at Versia L. Williams Elementary to establish a new CIS program. Of course, I was excited about the opportunity to serve a new school but I also expected there to be tons of leg work. As a social worker and project manager with CIS, we are on the front lines and we often find ourselves promoting and implementing our school based stay-in-school program alongside teachers, parents, students, and community members. The effectiveness of the CIS program depends heavily on the partnerships we build with these individuals. So… making a good first impression is priceless!

When I arrived at my new school and began meeting with teachers, staff members, and parents, I noticed a recurrent theme. The well-being and success of students and families is the core of Versia Williams. As an educational institution, the faculty and staff work to ensure students are successful in the classroom, but they also partner with parents to help students achieve success in life. The belief that school professionals, parents, and community members can positively impact the lives of students aligns with the mission of the CIS program and is evident in the work taking place at Versia Williams.

The principal, Mrs. Whatley has formed a strong team of professionals that work together cohesively with one goal in mind, student success. To help accomplish this goal, Versia Williams has master math and reading specialists, a dean of instruction, parent liaison, counselor, school psychologist, and a CIS social worker. In addition to putting together a team of professionals, Mrs. Whatley encourages staff members to collaborate with each other, asses the needs of students and their families, and implement best practices within our specialties to meet identified needs.

With this in mind, the parent liaison and I facilitated a basic computer skills course for parents. The course covered computer basics, such as learning the names and functions of computer hardware, creating an e-mail account, and accessing parent portal (an online database for FWISD parents to monitor their child’s academic progress). Since Versia Williams is a dual language campus, the course was offered in Spanish and English. In addition to providing a computer course for parents, CIS partnered with the Tarrant Area Food Bank to assist parents in completing applications for food stamps to ensure students are not hungry when they arrive at school. The resources and partnerships for each campus served by CIS are unique because they are based upon the current needs of students.

To ensure current needs are met, CIS staff members create and implement a campus plan each semester to help students overcome barriers to success. Campus plans provide a framework for the work that CIS staff do on a daily basis. After reviewing the campus plan, principals are provided an opportunity to share comments regarding the campus plan and Mrs. Whatley’s had this to say…

“Mrs. Rodriguez has developed a thorough and comprehensive plan for our campus. Our campus plan will have a major and positive impact on our students, staff and community. We are very excited about our campus plan and Mrs. Rodriguez has been a great resource and addition to our school family”.

Helping students to achieve is the foundation of the CIS program and it is also the basis for everything we do at Versia Williams. Mrs. Whatley’s comment shows that the CIS program meets a need that many schools, families, and communities share. And as I mentioned previously, first impressions do count!

 

Alecia Rodriguez, LBSW

Versia L. Williams Elementary


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School Begins at Sherrod Elementary

It’s a new year here at Sherrod Elementary and I could not be more excited! I am fairly new to Communities In Schools. I started late in the 2011-2012 school year, so this will be my first full school year with CIS. I absolutely love the school I have been placed at. Sherrod truly does function as a family unit. The students are bright, hard working, and actually excited to be at school! The teachers and staff at Sherrod have been so warm and welcoming. They have bent over backwards to make sure I have everything I need to serve their students. I am excited about all the opportunities this year will bring. Beginning school at the end of last year didn’t leave time to accomplish all I had hoped to before summer. I assured myself that I would soon have an entire school year to plan and implement all these wonderful ideas for the CIS program at Sherrod! Now the time has come to put my plan in to action and I am so excited about all the new opportunities!

When I came to Sherrod last year I was told time and time again, “You were the missing piece of the puzzle.” This school has a large support staff working night and day to serve their students. We have instructional facilitators to assist and empower teachers in the classroom, a parent liaison that does wonders getting parents involved in the school, as well as a behavioral specialist, special education counselor and a wonderful enrichment team. Despite the schools many strengths and resources, the students were still in need. Many of Sherrod’s students struggle with hunger, homelessness, violence, abuse, poverty, and numerous other barriers that influence their education. In my first days of work, I was called to help two separate homeless families find resources in their community. While talking with one family who was living in a hotel, I couldn’t help but think of the children living in that situation. Most of us can’t imagine not having the security of our own bed to sleep in at night or our own home to go to. Despite what these children were dealing with, they were still coming to school expected to focus and learn every single day. I quickly saw why I was the missing piece! I hope this year to have the time, patience, and discipline to serve as many students and families as I can.

-Christina Turner, LBSW

Project Manager


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Social Work Continues Even After School Gets Out

My friends always ask me, “what do you do during the summer, school is out, right?” I say yes, but life as a social worker is about more than assisting children and families in need. Social work is also about advocacy, research, policy and administration.

Over the summer months I wear several hats. First, I start my summer in Austin at our annual training program for best practice ideas and training over the next school year’s documents. Upon my return I analyze all required documents from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) during our summer training program. I, along with other operation managers in the CIS of Texas network, advocate for change with the prescribed paperwork in an effort to streamline paperwork and procedures for the hundreds of CIS staff across Texas.

Second, I work closely with several of the Program Directors to secure required Continuing Education Training Units (CEU’s) for our Project Managers. CIS Tarrant County builds relationships with other professionals throughout the metroplex to provide training. These courses help our staff stay abreast of the most current issues in their schools and communities.

Third, I work on changes to the Personnel, Policies and Procedure manuals.

Lastly, I focus on administrative duties such as selecting due dates for the upcoming school year and interviewing potential applicants for employment. I spend about 15 hours per week in the summer conducting interviews in an effort to secure the best candidates to fit CIS and our schools.

During interviews, I ask potential candidates if they are more energized by working with data or collaborating with others? Generally, most candidates say collaborating with others. However, social work requires both. I feel energized once a project is completed and I like collaborating with others for the success of children and CIS.

So, as you can see I have my work cut out for me each summer.

— Myra McGlothen, VP and Chief Program Officer