A recent move to reorganize the top management of Moore County Schools and save almost $300,000 is also giving Superintendent Bob Grimesey a chance to implement a project he has wanted since his first day on the job: a special crisis response team for students.
“A growing recognition of student mental health concerns suggests a possible need for a district-wide, ‘rapid response team’ with a lead psychologist, up to three social workers, and some yet-to-be-determined number of behavior intervention specialists,” Grimesey said.
Such a team would fall under the auspices of student support services and would be designed to make available both proactive and quick responses to mental health issues.
“Their mission would be deterrence of and intervention in crises related to student mental health, safety and welfare,” Grimesey said. “They would report to the director and assistant director of student support services and they would work in close collaboration with school counselors, principals
and school resource officers.”
An opportunity to create this team opened up following a report last fall from a team of consultants that recommended several changes to staffing levels and responsibilities for senior school administrators. Those recommendations, adopted by the Board of Education last week, would reduce the number of administrators and save $295,000.
Grimesey said that while the consultants’ report did not recommend the “rapid response team” concept, the decision to streamline services will assist those in crisis.
“Now we can consolidate the needs of families and students under one office,” he said.
The idea for such an effort was one of Grimesey’s earliest initiatives.
“Within weeks after I began my tenure as superintendent in 2014, I noticed that we seemed to be short-handed in staff positions that provided oversight and direct assistance related to the safety, health and welfare of students,” he said.
“Establishing the general oversight positions of director and assistant director of student support services is the first step. If we can get those individuals in place, then I will authorize them to work with teachers and principals to identify the most effective way to create a team that will provide more direct assistance to student safety, health and welfare.”
Grimesey said that a rapid response team may be a potentially cost-efficient alternative to another “internal bureaucracy.”
“The idea was inspired by a similar approach used in Fairfax County, Va., where my sister serves as a school social worker,” he said. “A rapid response team would focus on our students who present elevated levels of difficulty associated with behavior, mental health, attendance, substance abuse or other risk factors. Our goal would be to intervene before they injure themselves or others, or fall so far behind academically that they might not be able to catch up.”
Sara Bigley, administrator for Student Support Services, said that increasing mental health initiatives for students was “a definite direction in which the
system is going.”
“The shift is being more proactive than reactive,” Bigley said. “We would continue to watch risk factors in students, continue to work with the Sandhills Center and others to provide crisis training for teachers, and counselors and student resource officers will continue to respond to any crisis involving mental health.
“I am looking forward to moving toward what Dr. Grimesey envisions.”
Grimesey said he still has more details to figure out before presenting the initiative to the Board of Education for consideration.
“I am waiting to determine the board’s readiness to establish the office of student support services,” he said. “If the board approves, I will then need to hire the director and assistant director. Those two individuals will then work with teachers and principals to finalize a best approach to support student safety, health and welfare. I will offer the ‘rapid response team’ for their consideration, but I will make no final decision until I have heard back from our professionals in the field.
“In order for our children to achieve academically, we must ensure that they are physically, mentally and emotionally ready to learn.”
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or firstname.lastname@example.org