Dayton’s school board approved the sale of the former Colonel White and Carlson school properties.
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Dayton schools hiring 10 new mental health specialists to assist students with trauma, behavioral issues

Editor’s Note: The Dayton Public Schools Board of Education recently approved a plan to spend more than $60 million addressing some of the district’s most pressing needs. This story looks at one of those spending priorities. Go here for the full story on the strategic plan. 

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A comprehensive spending plan recently approved by the Dayton Public Schools board includes spending $882,000 a year to hire 10 new behavioral/mental health specialists to place in schools across the district. The dollar amount is based on a $65,000 starting salary plus benefits.

DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the new employees will work directly with students struggling with trauma and mental health issues. This will supplement services provided under contract with agencies such as Samaritan Behavioral Health.

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“They’ll provide some support services and then some recommendations for the children to have some extended services,” she said. “We have such a need. There aren’t enough support systems in place for kids.”

For example, Lolli said, she expects there will be children traumatized by the recent tornadoes that ripped through parts of the city, leaving some kids terrified and homeless.

“There are students that are going to be frightened every time there’s a thunderstorm and they’re sitting in a school building,” she said. “They’re going to need some extra support systems in place. They’re going to need some people that are experts and don’t say, ‘It’s OK, don’t worry about it, it’s just a thunderstorm.’”

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Jess Davies, director of socio-emotional learning services at the Montgomery County Educational Services Center, said treating children’s mental health removes barriers children face to learning.

“Research shows over and over again academic scores will increase,” she said. “If you want to raise academic scores, you have to deal with what’s below the tip of the iceberg.”

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This is particularly true, Davies said, in a district like Dayton where many children are faced with the trauma and adverse childhood experiences that accompany poverty.

“I think Dr. Lolli is right on track,” she said.

Josh Sweigart is a member of the Investigation & Community Impact Team for the Dayton Daily News whose stories have focused on government waste, fraud, abuse and accountability. He's won several awards for investigative reporting, including an Emmy Award and numerous awards from the Associated Press Society of Ohio and Society of Professional Journalists. Contact him on Facebook or Twitter.

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