Jessica Cejnar / Friday, Feb. 14 @ 2:56 p.m. / Education
With 242 Homeless Youth Attending Local Schools, DNUSD Approves Youth Service Coordinator Position
(Update 9:24 a.m. Sat: Corrected Cheryl Bradley's title at Del Norte High School.)
An increase in homeless students has prompted Del Norte Unified School District to add a position to provide “boots-on-the-ground” service to that population.
Learning that 242 homeless students attend Del Norte County schools, the Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a new youth service coordinator position. The district has a foster program coordinator, but wanted someone who can deal specifically with homeless students, said Tom Kissinger, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
“Up until recently (we) didn’t have anybody in that position,” Kissinger told Trustees. “We have 242 homeless students right now. We need somebody who can assist with providing direct support to these children and families.”
According to DNUSD Human Resources Director Coleen Parker, this staff person can use McKinney Vento dollars to provide backpacks and clothing. She said the position will be paid for through Title I dollars, which helps schools with large concentrations of low-income students.
Parker also noted that this student population is identified in the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan as those who need additional support.
According to the job description, the youth service coordinator, will be a full-time position with an annual starting salary of $35,091. Mandated benefits would cost $12,488 and health and welfare is projected to cost the district $9,500. The total cost for the position would be $57,079 to the school district, according to the description.
The McKinney Vento Act identifies homeless children and youth as those who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.
This includes students who are couch surfing, living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or campgrounds, are living in emergency or transitional shelters or who are abandoned in hospitals.
Children whose primary nighttime home is in a public or private place not designed for sleeping accommodation or who are living in cars, parks, public spaces or abandoned buildings are also considered homeless under the McKinney Vento Act. Migratory children also fall under that criteria, according to the National Center for Homeless Education.
In Del Norte County, the new youth services coordinator will work alongside the DNUSD’s director of foster youth services and homeless education, Parker said. The district is currently hiring for that position, which is paid for with funds from both DNUSD and the Del Norte County Office of Education, she said.
According to Kissinger, in the district’s LCAP, which outlines how it will spend extra dollars earmarked for low-income, foster students, homeless students and English language learners, provides funding for activities for foster and homeless students.
This includes things like making sure they have a cap and gown at their graduation as well as clean clothes.
However, Del Norte High School English teacher Cheryl Bradley said staff, foster parents and even the students themselves may not know there are services available.
Another Del Norte High School teacher mentioned that she has three foster children in her home and though they met with the foster youth coordinator before school started last year, they never saw the coordinator again that year.
Kissinger said the former director of foster youth services and homeless education and the foster youth coordinator meet with children and families and connect them with outside resources every day. However, he said, some students need more support than others.
“One of the things we can do is do a much better job communicating who’s providing services,” Kissinger said. “Making sure teachers, administrators and classified staff have the information to know what services are being provided and how to contact us.”