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Superior School District asks state for more help hiring social workers

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SUPERIOR,WI-- Hiring school social workers is hard enough, but the rules in Wisconsin make it even more difficult.

Currently, The Wisconsin Department of Instruction only recognizes social work degrees from three universities. Licensed social worker Jane Larson has more than two decades of experience helping people in need.

But even she isn't qualified to work at Wisconsin schools.

Larson says, "I graduated, I have a master's, I'm clinically licensed in two states. I have a school social work license in Minnesota. And the requirement here to go back and have additional course work postmasters has been a bit of a challenge."

The three universities that are recognized are the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee.

All on the eastern side of the state.

Superior Superintendent Amy Starzecki says that means hiring challenges.. for schools in our region.

Starzecki says, "Any social worker who's graduated from a master's degree from UMD or St. Scholastica. Their programs aren't recognized by the state of Wisconsin."

Larson adds, being so far away means difficulty recruiting.

"I think it's hard to draw people from Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee to come to SUperior and work when they could go over the bridge where it's a much larger community. I think just getting people to come here for that position is difficult," says Larson.

It's even harder because most mental healths services are across the bridge in Minnesota.

"There's a significant void in our district around mental health. We have a very little continuum of mental health services when it comes to out-patients, we have no day treatment, and we have no residential programming for students," says Starzecki.

The Superior School District brought a new resolution to the Association of School Boards last week.

It adds UMD and St. Scholastica to the list of recognized schools.

It passed, which Starzecki says will bring more mental health support to local schools.

"We have kids and families in need and we need those supports in our school. We don't have those supports in our community. And we are desperately asking for some help," says Starzecki.

Larson still has a couple more steps to take before she can work at Wisconsin schools.

But she says these new rules will allow more social workers like her to help students in need.

"I mean it's a concern not just here but state-wide and across the nation. We have a lot of students that we're working within districts that have a lot of needs that school social workers are able to help fulfill those needs," says Larson.

Now that the Association of School Boards has passed the rule change.. they need to work on finalizing it.

It's not clear when the state will start accepting degrees from UMD and St. Scholastica.

Emma Quinn

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