The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 30, 2013

Former board member calls for increased awareness of mental health issues in schools

By Roger McKinney
news@joplinglobe.com

NEOSHO, Mo. — Former Neosho Board of Education member Chris Parks on Tuesday night urged his former colleagues to push for a greater presence of mental health professionals in schools.

Parks, himself a mental health therapist in Joplin schools, didn’t run for re-election and left the board last month. He made his presentation during an informal session of the board.

Parks said mental health issues contribute to more than half of dropouts.

“The dropout issue is a mental health issue,” he said.

He said students deal with homelessness, the divorces or deaths of parents, the deaths of fellow students, and many other issues.

“Things happen and kids come to school, and they’re profoundly affected by it,” he said. “We have kids who are suffering who have nowhere to turn and nowhere to go.”

Another issue that contributes to mental health issues is poverty, Parks said. He said poverty is well represented among students in Neosho schools.

“That’s part of the equation,” he said.

He said the district should invite staff members from Ozark Center and other agencies and services into the schools, to build relationships between the agencies and the schools.

Parks said teachers could be trained to identify students in distress.

“What we’re looking for is a departure from normal,” he said. He said those students could be referred to a therapist.

“All this time, we’re working directly with the parents” to keep them informed, he said.

Also Tuesday, Eric McCune and Kristi Beattie, with Sapp Design Associates Architects, of Springfield, presented updated plans for Federal Emergency Management Agency shelter additions at South Elementary School and Neosho High School.

McCune said cost estimates have risen from what he had told the board previously about the high school plan, but he said he expects to be able to bring costs down to the original number.

A two-story, 18-classroom addition is planned at the high school. McCune initially said the district’s cost would be about $3.9 million.

Board President Brett Day said McCune shouldn’t try to cut too much.

“This is a big deal, and we need to do it right,” Day said.



Demonstration

BUSINESS TEACHER TRAVIS GARREN during Tuesday’s meeting presented a demonstration of an Internet-based approach for student assignments, tests and quizzes.