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Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants details on new social workers

2020-01-16

The Manhattan Borough President is looking for specifics on how city education officials are spending millions in new funding earmarked for additional school social workers.

In a Thursday letter to schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, Gale Brewer asked for an update on where more than 100 school social workers have been placed, and how many of the 85 promised school-based clinicians have been hired so far.

Brewer praised the infusion of new social workers as a positive step, but cautioned that “like so much else it’s all in the execution.”

“I have questions on that front,” she added.

Brewer said her office was “surprised to learn that a significant number” of the school-based clinicians, who are funded with $10 million diverted from First Lady Chirlane McCray’s Thrive NYC mental health program, have not yet been assigned to schools.

One school that did get a clinician reported sharing the social worker with nine other schools.

“How can this type of placement provide adequate support or a clinical level of services to students with immediate emotional distress? Simply put, it’s preposterous,” Brewer wrote.

Education Department officials couldn’t provide the exact number of clinicians hired so far, but said it’s the “majority” and the agency is continuing to hire.

The Manhattan BP also asked where 100 new middle school social workers funded in this year’s budget have been placed, and where an additional 31 social workers designated for homeless students are working, and what criteria the city used in deciding where to assign them.

Even when the city hires all 215 new social workers promised in recent budget negotiations, it’s still a long way from the national standard of one social worker per 250 students, Brewer said.

“This administration has made unprecedented investments in mental health support for students, including hiring more social workers and increasing access to restorative practices, and will continue to work closely with schools to meet the needs of their students," said Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot. "Representatives from the administration met with the borough president yesterday, and we have scheduled a meeting with her to discuss this important issue further.”