City schools to add state-funded mental health specialist

While meeting last week, the Fort Payne Board of Education approved a request to create, advertise and fill a new position for system-wide mental health service coordinator. This new staff member will serve as an advocate for students and work to identify and address mental, social and concrete needs to overcome barriers that interfere with academic success.

Superintendent Jim Cunningham said the Alabama Legislature provided funding for the new position after House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, held a Mental Health Task Force hearing in which Fort Payne’s system-wide social worker Kayla Magbie revealed the multitude of benefits when there is a liaison between the home, school and community.

These include addressing mental health issues, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, anorexia, bulimia, substance abuse or addiction, ADHD, financial difficulties, medical concerns, behavioral problems, parent-child conflict, family crisis, suspected child abuse or neglect, poor academic performance, and truancy or chronic absenteeism – all major impediments to learning that can have far-reaching impacts on communities.

Ledbetter sponsored a bill, HB 341, which passed the House on March 12. Companion bills addressed law enforcement undergoing mental health-related training and gaining authorization to take a person into protective custody for 72 hours after displaying symptoms of mental illness.

After a constituent’s son died in an encounter with law enforcement, Ledbetter met with probate judges, school officials, mental health providers and others in search of ways to target Alabama’s shortcomings in mental health care.

This new position will be in addition to Magbie, who was hired in October 2018 and whose salary will continue to be paid by the local school system, Cunningham said.

The board also:

• hired Clemente Alonzo Juan as custodian at Fort Payne High School, pending a background check.

• added Amy Adams to the substitute teacher personnel list.

• accepted the resignation of Danny Garrard as bus driver due to retirement.

• accepted the resignations of Brandy Dupree as fourth grade teacher at Williams Avenue Elementary School (WAES) and Cynthia Wooten as pre-K aide at Wills Valley Elementary (WVES), as well as system-wide special education aide Michell Trotman, and Jolie Martin from the kindergarten reading vertical leadership team.

• approved adding additional instructional planning blocks for two semesters for Jeff Boatright and Joy McClain, costing $3,000 per teacher.

• approved the transfer of Natalie Stevens from system-wide special education aide to fourth grade teacher at WAES, effective August 4 and non-renew her contract on May 27, 2021; Angie Jones from custodian at FPHS to Child Nutrition Program worker at FPHS, effective August 24; Steven Goff from varsity tennis assistant coach at FPHS to assistant boys soccer coach and faculty rep at FPHS, effective for the 2020-21 school year; Phillip Smith from half-time to full-time bus driver within the system, effective August 13 and non-renew his contract on May 26, 2021.

• approved the recommendation to hire Brandon Renfroe as science teacher at FPHS, effective August 4 and non-renew his contract on May 27, 2021; Jose M. Torres Reyes as custodian at FPHS, effective August 17 and non-renew his contract on June 30, 2021; Jacob McGraw as fall and spring band assistant at FPHS; Alex Jacobs as winterguard instructor at FPHS; Logan Wright as seventh grade girls basketball coach; Rilee Street as junior high softball assistant; Catherine Tidmore as system-wide special education aide, effective August 4 and non-renew her contract on May 27, 2021; Angela Wright as system-wide special education aide, effective August 4 and non-renew her contract on May 27, 2021; and Ethan Barnes as half-time bus driver within the system, effective August 13 and non-renew his contract on May 26, 2021.

• approved substitute personnel lists for the Educational Development Plan (EDP), nurses and teachers for the 2020-2021 school year.

• approved board policies for IDH Career/Technical Education safety; IDHA Career/Technical Education maintenance, repair and replacement of CTE equipment; IDHB Career/Technical Education Cooperative Education Program and JTA Student Live Work policy. Cunningham said the board is required to formally revisit and re-approve these policies every three years.

• set the next regular board meeting for Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. in the conference room of the Central Office.

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