Home Deptford News Pine Acres Early Childhood Center addresses need for counselor

Pine Acres Early Childhood Center addresses need for counselor

Children are the future of the world, there’s no arguing that point. To want the best for the children in the community is to want the best for the future of the world. When Shelli Jones, principal of the Pine Acres Early Childhood Center, spoke at the latest board of education meeting, she expressed passion for her youngsters.

Jones said her school had no classroom aides in the behavioral disabilities classroom, the autism classroom or the first-grade classroom that’s supposed to have an aide.

“This has posed a huge obstacle for the students who require support from these rooms,” she said.

Jones outlined five students who require extra attention. For example, “Johnny” had a one-to-one paraprofessional but frequently required support of the teacher as well as other adults in the classroom. His behavior lasted until October, according to Jones.

“Stanley” wasn’t a fit for the behavioral disability classroom, but flipped chairs and was aggressive toward teachers before he moved out of the district.

“Harry” started in the behavioral disability class but transitioned into the first-grade classroom with an aide. There was no paraprofessional at the time, so one had to be hired. Due to the loss of a grandparent, Harry regressed.

“Max,” a general education student, moved from out of state after a family tragedy and was placed in a home with a relative. Jones said he was often defiant and refused to take part in lessons.

“Julie” has anger problems. She has been observed screaming at the top of her lungs when things didn’t go her way.

According to Jones, there are four other children with emotional challenges, six families who reached out to mobile crisis to receive services for their children, two students diagnosed with anxiety, five general education students with counseling referrals, six students in the behavioral disabilities classroom with counseling referrals, and nine special education referrals since October.

“I’m not sure if this is the new norm or if it’s an anomaly, but we can’t continue to be reactive, we need to take a more proactive approach,” Jones said.

Pine Acres doesn’t have a counselor assigned to the building. Jones said the special education students are being supported by a counselor from the middle school, but the general education students are not receiving support.

“We’re the only school in the district without counseling support for our children,” she said. “Despite being a constant advocate for these children since October, arrangements are only now being made this month, and these students will begin to receive just 15 minutes of service every two weeks for a total of 30 minutes in 12 school days.”

Jones surveyed her staff, coming to a conclusion that only 44 percent of teachers feel they can support special-needs students.

One of the ways Jones feels her staff can be more proactive is by teaching Social Emotional Learning, or SEL.

“SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, to set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions,” Jones said.

Jones added SEL helps develop self-awareness, social-awareness, self-management, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

“Research says, when children are taught these skills, they learn how to foster their own well-being and become more resilient,” she said. “That, in turn, builds a more positive classroom that better engages the children in learning. As they become more absorbed in learning, children are more likely to do better in school.”

In other news:

  • Danielle Mills, Spartan Care director, gave an update on the program. In 2016-17, Spartan Care, the district’s before- and after-school program, had 58 students enrolled and made $6,600 in revenue. The next year, 191 students were enrolled and revenue jumped to $21,500. This year, 346 students are enrolled and it has $145,000 in revenue. The revenue for Spartan Care goes back to the district in many forms. According to Mills, they buy things for the kids like magnet tiles, kitchen sets and Bluetooth speakers. They give back to the district as well in the form of physical education equipment, headphones and computer mice for the library.
  • The next board of education meeting is scheduled for March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Deptford Township High School cafeteria. This meeting is open to the public.
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