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Highlight on school at-risk staff

By George Greger-Holt
Posted Friday, March 25, 2005

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Over the past few years, schools have become more aware of the problems students bring to school and how those problems affect learning. Chatham County Schools has been aware of this for several years and has employed both a Student Assistance Counselor and Student Assistance Social Worker to assist the counselors and school administration in addressing the needs of these students.

Student Assistance Counselor George Greger-Holt, M.Ed., has been serving students in the Chatham County School System for twenty years and visits Perry Harrison, Moncure, Horton, Chatham Middle, Northwood, Chatham Central, Jordan-Matthews and SAGE once per week. Pete Scholle, MSW, has been serving students for seven years and visits Pittsboro Elementary, Siler City Elementary, Bonlee, Bennett, J. S. Waters, Silk Hope and North Chatham once per week.

“Between the two of us, we cover the entire county,” remarked Scholle. “We serve students who are at great risk of not being successful in school,” he continued.

“In addition, we provide an additional resource for school counselors and administrators,” added Greger-Holt. Both Scholle and Greger-Holt serve between thirty-five and forty students per week and conduct twenty to thirty support and information groups per year.

Along with individual and group counseling, Student Assistance services include counseling on bullying, social skills, anger management, substance abuse prevention, suicide prevention and intervention and counseling for students who violate the school system Alcohol and Other Drug Policy. In addition, Scholle and Greger-Holt provide classroom education; teacher/administrator consultation; help to families in accessing community resources; act as a liaison between school system and local mental health as well as other child serving agencies; and serve on the crisis team.

Rob Tharp, Principal of Silk Hope School, said, “We use our Student Assistance Social Worker to meet with our more difficult students and their families. Pete is an invaluable member of our staff.”

John Eldridge, principal at Chatham Central High School, who has worked with both Scholle and Greger-Holt concurs, “There are students at the school who need specialized attention that we may struggle to give them. George and Peter have been critical in helping us to meet their needs.”

Scholle and Greger-Holts' efforts seem to be paying off. According to the 2004 Alcohol and Other Drug Survey, early experimentation with tobacco and marijuana is down, as well as habitual use of tobacco, marijuana and alcohol. Alcohol and tobacco use are at their lowest levels since the survey began in 1990.

“We are very happy with the results we have been achieving with our Student Assistance Program,” remarked Beverly Crotts, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services. “In addition, we are beginning to gather information on bullying in our schools. Our first survey was conducted at the end of last school year and a follow-up survey is planned for the end of this year,” Crotts continued.

Funding for the Student Assistance Program comes from a variety of state and federal grants. The federal Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act provides funding for several of the activities. This grant is one of the programs scheduled to be cut in the President's budget for next year.

“We are hopeful that the Congress and President will see the value of this program and continue funding,” remarked Greger-Holt. “We are committed to serving these students and continuing our success.”

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