Fall is Here!

Welcome back to the 2023-2024 school year

President's Message

Dear Members,

It is with great excitement and honor that I step into the role of President of MSSWA. As a school social worker for the last 27 years, I have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the incredible dedication and passion that our profession embodies. Now, as your new president, I am committed to amplifying our collective voice and advancing the critical work of school social workers across the state of Minnesota.

Over the next two years, I have set ambitious goals that reflect our shared vision for the future. First and foremost, it is essential to foster a strong foundation for our association starting with revising our bylaws. By doing so, we can ensure that our organization remains current, adaptable, and responsive to the evolving needs of our members and the students and families we serve. I am confident that this process will strengthen our association's structure and enable us to better advocate for the vital role of school social workers in educational settings.

Equity is a cornerstone of our work as school social workers, and it must be at the forefront of our association's priorities. I am dedicated to fostering a more equitable approach in all aspects of our profession. This includes promoting culturally responsive practices, addressing systemic disparities, and actively working towards dismantling barriers that hinder the success and well-being of marginalized students. By championing equity, we can strive for educational environments that celebrate diversity, cultivate inclusivity, and empower all students to reach their full potential.

Advocacy remains a central pillar of our association's mission, and I am committed to continuing our strong advocacy efforts on behalf of school social workers across Minnesota. Together, we will collaborate with policymakers, education leaders, and other stakeholders to ensure that our profession is recognized, valued, and adequately supported. By raising awareness about the critical contributions we make to the academic, social, and emotional growth of students, we can secure the resources and recognition necessary to effect positive change in our schools and communities.

As we embark on this journey together, I want to ensure that our members feel supported and empowered to make a difference in their schools and communities. If you have have ideas regarding resources or professional development opportunities that you think would be most beneficial for our members to enhance their skills and knowledge, feel free to share your thoughts!

Let's work together to create a vibrant and impactful community of school social workers in Minnesota. Our association's success is a reflection of our collective efforts, and I'm genuinely excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

Warm regards,

Julie Campanelli, MSW, LICSW, Ed.S.

President, Minnesota School Social Worker Association

Did you know...?

MSSWA has CEU's available at your fingertips!!! Check us out on Teachable.

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MSSWA 2023 Fall Conference

October 9th – 10th, 2023

IN-PERSON!!! Sheraton Minneapolis West Hotel

12202 Ridgedale Drive, Minnetonka, MN 55305

Registration: https://msswa.org/event-5234084/Registration

MSSWA 2024 Day on the Hill

March 6th, 2024

MSSWA 2024 Summer Institute

June 10th – 12th, 2024

IN-PERSON!!! – Going Back to: Sugar Lake Lodge

37584 Otis Lane, Cohasset, MN 55721

Summer Institute 2023 Re-cap

The MSSWA Summer Institute was once again held on the shores of beautiful Leech Lake in Walker Minnesota. The three day event of education and networking was crowned by a full day session with Dr. Anne Gearity.

Things kicked on June 12th with a movie screening and discussion on the documentary Wake Up: Stories From the Front Line of Sucidie Prevention. This documentary “threads personal stories of suicide and loss into a single narrative that educates the public on America’s most dire health crisis and inspires viewers to take action.” Linnea Divine, MSW, LICSW, CCFP and Allie Taylor, M.Ed then gave a presentation on compassion fatigue titled “Reclaiming Resilience” followed by Jake Sturgis, B.A., A.P.R and Benji Perez Gonzolez’s presentation called “In Their Words: Amplifying Student Voices to Address DEI and Well-Being.” The evening included networking and conversations over dinner, followed by a wine raffle and “Head -Tails” game, with the proceeds going to the MSSWA Scholarship Fund.

Day two was the Anne Gearity (PhD, LICSW) show. Dr. Gearity shared her vast knowledge and wisdom about changes that are occurring in our schools and how to adapt to meet the changing needs. The evening included a bonfire with smores and more time to connect with fellow social workers from around the state.

The final day included presentations by Brad Hanson, LICSW and Cynthia Prosek, MA. Brad's presentation titled “Cringe!” taught us about the brain’s response to highly embarrassing moments and Cynthia taught us about the power of Restorative Justice within the school systems.

Chad Jayasekera, MA, LICSW

MN School Social Worker of the Year Nominees

Becky Abbott

Becky was nominated for the MSSWA School Social Worker of the year award by her assistant principal, Leah Roske. Ms. Roske states that hiring Becky 21 years ago was one of the best decisions she has ever made in her 25 years as a principal. She also adds that Becky has been one of the most impactful and effective employees that she has ever worked with.

Becky attained her Social Work degree from Bemidji State University and has been employed as a High School School Social Worker in the Little Falls School district for the last 21 years.

Timothy Bjorge, her principal, shared that Becky checks all the boxes of what you could ever ask for in a school social worker and that her positive attitude towards student success is infectious and makes everyone she works with better! Another colleague, Kolbi Grant, states that she is an unsung hero in our area and that we always say “we are replaceable” but Becky is not.

Leah Roske pulls it all together by writing that she is the true definition of a superhero and that she is a rockstar at what she does.

MSSWA is proud to honor and acknowledge Becky Abbott as an exceptional Social Worker!

Mary Jo Kacvinsky

Mary Jo was nominated for the MSSWA School Social Worker of the year award by her principal, Mr. Chad Ryburn. Mr. Ryburn stated that Ms. Kacvinsky has been an exceptional social worker at Highland Elementary for the past 23 years and he enthusiastically nominated her for the honor of MN School Social Worker of the year.

Mary Jo received her bachelors in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and her masters in Social Work from Augsburg College in Minneapolis. She is licensed as an Independent Clinical Social Worker.

Mary Jo’s colleagues at Highland Elementary School in the Apple Valley School District shared glowing statements about her character, integrity, relationships and work ethic. Nancy Risch, school psychologist stated that when working collaboratively with Mary Jo to solve problems and plan for student needs, she is continually in awe of her common-sense, level-headed solutions; she tends to express “the voice of reason”. And she went on to say that she always feels confident having Mary Jo by her side when facing tricky or uncomfortable situations.

Another colleague, Lynn Hernandez summed it up perfectly by stating that Mary Jo is an empathic, respectful individual who brings compassion, understanding and hope to students, families and school staff!

MSSWA is excited to acknowledge Mary Jo as an exceptional school social worker!

Cara McGlynn

Cara was nominated for the MSSWA School Social Worker of the year award by her direct administrator, Nikke VanOeveren. Nikki stated Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District is privileged to nominate Cara. She is a leader in mental health services, trauma-informed care, community resources/collaboration, equity and staff development. Cara has been in her position as School Social Worker and District SSW Lead and District McKinney-Vento, Fostering Connections, and MIgrant Student Liaison for almost 10 years. Her colleagues stated her exceptional professionalism and passionate advocacy are worthy of recognition beyond their own district.

Cara received her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of MInnesota-Twin Cities and is licensed as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker.

Cara’s administrator, Theresa Wallace, Manager of Special Projects in the Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916 stated Cara is passionate about advocating for students and families, and has demonstrated leadership and dedication to creating and maintaining effective systems of support. Theresa added Cara’s hard work and dedication has enhanced the services that they provide students not only on a programmatic and district level but also a direct impact in the 13 member districts. Jay Fehrman, Principal/Manager stated Cara is an accomplished presenter and provides training for staff and leads 30 social workers in the district. She has provided ongoing professional development that reinforces intervention practices related to social skills, grief, anger management, conflict resolution, peer mediation, motivation and other social emotional issues that impact student learning. She also has made lasting contributions in the Bullying Prevention/Intervention practices, threat assessment procedures, truancy, CTSS, along with many other programs/initiatives. Jay continues that Cara’s participation in all facets of her work show her high standards and ethics and she demonstrates the highest level of empathy, compassion and dedication of service to others.

MSSWA is excited to acknowledge Cara as an exceptional school social worker!

Abbey Pierce

Abbey was nominated for the MSSWA School Social Worker of the year award by her director,Cyndi Steinke. Cyndi stated that Abbey is not only the lead social worker for Spring Lake Park Schools but she also provides invaluable support to our students and families at Northpoint Elementary Schools. She is continually finding resources to support our students' social and emotional needs, and has been instrumental in obtaining grants and resources. Abbey has been the district wide specialist for social work, mental health and attendance for 3 years. She is a caring and dedicated social worker with the necessary expertise and leadership qualities to lead and they can not imagine a better candidate and with great excitement nominate Abbey for the 2023 School Social Worker of the year.

Abbey received her Masters Degree in Social Work from Saint Louis University and is licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Abbey’s colleagues in the Spring Lake Park Schools stated she has a wealth of knowledge she holds around community resources and is a responsive and valued partner when unexpected events happen in their community. Kaline Sandven Marinello, Director of Special Education and Student Services, stated Abbey is a tireless advocate for our students and finds strengths and value in any person. Nichola Hooper, Student Services Specialist, stated Abbey’s contributions extend far beyond Northpoint Elementary and that staff reach out to her for ideas and support daily. Rachel Adamek, Coordinator of Behavior Supports and Services, stated Abbey assisted in implementation of non-exclusionary discipline grant funding and was able to introduce restorative practices to a number of staff throughout the district, which has positively impacted students who walk through the school doors of Spring Lake Park School District.

MSSWA is excited to acknowledge Abbey as an exceptional school social worker!

2023 Minnesota School Social Worker of the Year: Charlynn Dahl

The Minnesota School Social Workers Association proudly announces the selection of Charlynn Dahl as the Minnesota School Social Worker of the Year for 2023. Charlynn has been working as a school social worker and in the mental health field for many years. Charlynn received her Bachelor of Science in social work in 2005 from Minnesota State University. She then received her Master of social work from the University of Southern California in 2007. Charlynn is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker through the Minnesota Board of Social Work and holds a State Minnesota Educator License as a School Social Worker. She is very active professionally with community organizations. She has taken part in the Drug, Alcohol, and Distracted Driving Prevention Committee, The Chippewa County Out of Home Task Force, The Chippewa County Child Protection Team, the Restorative Attendance Review Board Committee, The Southwest Center Service Cooperative, and The School Crisis Response Team.

Charlynn’s school principal Chris Weber shared “Mrs. Dahl has been an outstanding Elementary and High School School Social Worker in our district. Mrs. Dahl was an elementary Social Worker in our district for 3years and has been our high school Social Worker for the last 4 years. Her innovative, caring, personable, empathic style serves to peak the interest of our students. Mrs. Dahl has shown a special balance of great student rapport with excellent student accountability. Her knowledge, approach style, professional relationships, and willingness to give of her time to our students and families has made her a very popular and effective School Social Worker.”

“Mrs. Dahl is very active in our community as well. She serves on the County Child Protection team, the County Out of Home Task Force, Suicide Collation, the Mock Car Crash Committee, and the Restorative Attendance Review Board. She has been a presenter to area educators on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Interface and has been instrumental in the incorporation of the ACE program in our school district. Mrs. Dahl was an integral part of the creation of the Restorative Attendance Review Board (RARB) in a neighboring county while working in another school district. This is a supportive intervention process to prevent student truancy with school, county, and enforcement involvement with students and families. When Mrs. Dahl was hired in our school district, she brought this RARB concept to our county and helped with the implementation of this process within our County Family Services. We “Through partnerships with families, community, and staff, we will provide exemplary educational opportunities, preparing all students for successful futures.”Equal Opportunity Employer has found this partnership with the county and law enforcement to be beneficial to our families and students and has prevented many truancies from going to court. I have found Mrs. Dahl to be a positive professional source in our building. She has demonstrated her strong work ethic by giving freely of her time to help students and families. Her rapport with staff and students is outstanding, along with her knowledge of her field.”

Kati Birhanzl Montevideo High School Career Coordinator says “ I have been a teacher at our high school for the past four years and have been fortunate to work with Char Dahl. I have witnessed Char’s consistent, caring approach to students and her efforts to teach them coping strategies they can use independently. Her positive attitude is contagious. She is clear on her purpose and goal for students and is able to be innovative to meet their needs.”

Kris Kirkeby, a School Social Worker colleague shares “ Char quickly develops a rapport with students and advocates for each one of them. She is trustworthy and approachable to students, school staff, and families. Char has the ability to gain the trust of parents, even parents who do not easily trust individuals in school or other agencies. Char has demonstrated numerous times her devotion to going above and beyond for each and every student and family she comes into contact with. She is innovative, proactive, and has a great vision to implement new ideas, strategies, and programs. Char has a strong desire to learn, grow, and improve. Not only does she have the desire, but she is also an individual who creates positive change. She has been instrumental in creating programs and curriculums for students in our district as well as other districts. Char has developed many excellent connections with service providers in other community agencies. She invites and often initiates collaboration with others and believes wholeheartedly in a wrap-around approach. In addition to the typical school social work duties, Char is involved in other committees within the school and community. She is very knowledgeable and brings past experience to the PBIS team. During her years at the elementary level, she also coordinated the RTI team. Char took the lead on scheduling, paperwork, and data collection. Char is an active member of the School Crisis Response team. She has assisted multiple neighboring schools during very tragic difficult situations. It is evident that Char truly cares about students, families, colleagues, her profession, and her work. She is dedicated to helping each student achieve personal success academically, socially, and emotionally despite the many outside factors that negatively affect their role as a student. Char is a person of integrity who has a wealth of talents to share.”

MSSWA is so excited to acknowledge Charlynn Dahl and her dedication to the school social work profession. Her knowledge, her support of her colleagues, and her commitment and advocacy for the students she serves makes MSSWA proud Charlynn is our Minnesota School Social Worker of the Year for 2023!

School Social Work Association of America

Greetings from SSWAA Past President Christy McCoy MSW LICSW,

This is an exciting time and marks a milestone in the School Social Work Association of America’s (SSWAA) history! This year SSWAA enters its 30th year as an organization. SSWAA was formed due to the dedication and legacy of 64 participants from 20 states who came together to form an organization exclusively representing School Social Workers 30 years ago in Edwardsville, IL. Over the course of the past 30 years, like many organizations, SSWAA has faced various challenges such as pivoting during a global pandemic to meet the needs of our members and the communities we serve. Despite any barriers or challenges, SSWAA remained steadfast and has thrived experiencing “incredible growth, increased membership and professional impact, and has faced challenges with resilience and dedication to the school social work profession” (Oliver, R. 2023).

Throughout this year, SSWAA is going to take time to pause and celebrate our organization. Please watch for monthly blogs in a series titled "Pearls of Wisdom" written by founding members of SSWAA. Through these inspirational blogs, founding members will be sharing their experiences related to the creation of SSWAA and the early work of the association. We hope these blogs enrich your understanding of and appreciation for the development of our association.

Our profession and organization has truly benefited from the wisdom of our predecessors past and present who have paved the way for all of us. These individuals raised the visibility of how school social workers play an instrumental role leading collective healing efforts while also confronting ongoing social injustices that further marginalize various groups and individuals. Our strengths perspective combined with our commitment to advocacy and social justice is the foundation that sets our profession and interventions apart from any other field. Building on the legacy and contributions of our profession’s leaders, school social workers are leaning into their ethical calling to bring forth systemic change. Advocating within their schools as well as politically to ensure every person is treated with dignity and worth and has equitable access to support and services to fulfill their basic human rights.

SSWAA along MSSWA is working tirelessly to provide professional development opportunities, resources, and tools to strengthen the practice of school social workers in meeting the current and future needs. As the premiere National School Social Work organization, SSWAA believes that each of YOU are TRUE AGENTS OF CHANGE! You are vital leaders offering hope, empowerment, advocacy, critical collaboration and collective healing efforts to promote the overall well-being of your students, families and the communities you serve.

SSWAA stands with you as you seek professional development training to expand your knowledge of your role and best practice strategies. SSWAA is committed to assist you as you seek tools and resources to elevate your practice in the school setting. SSWAA is devoted to helping you engage with our profession, thus connecting you with a vast network of professionals. Visit the SSWAA Back to School Resources page at https://www.sswaa.org/back-to-school for vital resources and tools as you begin the new year.

In addition, here are a few position papers that can also serve as essential tools to enhance your practice and ongoing advocacy efforts:

Updated Supplemental Ethical Standards for School Social Work Practice

Promoting Self Care for Social Workers

OTHER BREAKING NEWS….SSWAA and CASEL have joined forces as part of the Back to School Campaign 2023. In addition to key strategies and resources created for school social workers to support their efforts in facilitating a safe and positive school climate for all students using SEL, SSWAA and CASEL are hosting a Townhall event focused on School Social Workers as Leaders in SEL on September 27th 1pm CST. Follow us on social media, to receive updates and reminders for news and events. Don’t forget to include in your electronic communications the hashtags #SSWAA #BackToSchoolSW #LeadingwithSEL.

Finally, SSWAA is also devoted to helping you engage with our profession, thus connecting you with a vast network of professionals. For example, SSWAA’s Practitioners of Color Advisory Committee meets the 3rd Tuesday of every month. As Elisa Meza, founding member of SSWAA’s Practitioners of Color Advisory Committee reflected, many practitioners have asked, “Why is it necessary for BIPOC spaces to exist?” I respond, “Because the institutions we work in were not built for our healing; we must create these spaces for ourselves” (Meza, 2022). As a result, the POC Advisory Committee meets monthly so that practitioners of color can come together to hold space for one another to share in their lived experiences. The goal is to offer time and space for collective healing and to prioritize best practices for dismantling racism in schools. For more information on this committee, please contact Dr. Blanca Sanchez McGee at sswaapoc@gmail.com.

Minnesota also participated in SSWAA’s annual Delegate Assembly and Leadership Institute. Julie Campanelli MSSWA President & Sherry Murphy MSSWA Past President joined state leaders from across the nation current issues, trends, and concerns in the field to current issues, trends, and concerns in the field. It is an opportunity for state leaders to also gather, learn from each other, curate new ideas and strategies, and make recommendations to the SSWAA Board for the advancement and sustainability of the profession.

Becoming a member of your national and state school social work organizations helps to advance our profession as a whole while also assuring our social work perspective is at the table when policies, programs and legislation is being developed. Thank you to all who are members!!! For those who have not yet joined SSWAA or your state association, I would encourage you to visit our websites to learn about the numerous benefits of being a member. For SSWAA membership information simply go to https://www.sswaa.org/sswaa-membership. Remember that as a MSSWA member, when you choose a full SSWAA membership, you are elevated to the premiere membership because MSSWA is an affiliate state; thus connecting you to a vast library of interventions and tools. JOIN or RENEW TODAY to stay up-to-date on news and information critical to your work.

We hope to see many of you at our National Conference in Baltimore, MD, and on behalf of the SSWAA Board of Directors, we wish you a positive and enriching 2023-2024 school year!

Midwest SSW Conference, Hosted by Iowa SSWA

Join us in learning about embedding a neurobiological lens in the school setting. Keynote Speaker includes Jessica Pfeiffer. For more information, check out the 2023 Midwest School Social Work Conference & Awards Banquet Flyer.

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Region Updates

Region 1

Greetings Region 1 MSSWA members and happy 2023-24 school year! We had high attendance at our spring meeting where we provided a training on Suicude Awareness and Prevention. It was a great time to collaborate virtually with other professionals. We were also able to give several attendees door prizes! We are excited to offer more beneficial trainings at our Region 1 meetings this school year. Please reach out to either Nancy or Kamie with ideas or suggestions.

Have a great school year!

Your Region 1 representatives,

Nancy Williams, School Social Worker, Owatonna High School


Kamie Lodermeier, School Social Worker, Goodhue School District kalodermeier@goodhue.k12.mn.us

Region 3

Hello! We hope you had an amazing summer and were able to relax, spend time with family, and take some much needed time for yourself. With the start of the new school year, we are hopeful you are excited to get back to work to support students and families. We are tentatively planning our fall region 3 meeting and training for November 2nd from 11:00-3:00 with the location TBD. We are looking for training ideas so please reach out to Tara (tara.prom@isd47.org) with suggestions. More information will be coming out for this meeting ASAP! Best wishes for a wonderful start to the school year!

Tara Prom & Carmen Tschida

Region 3 Co-Reps

Region 4A

Happy Fall Everyone!

As the weather cools down and we welcome back our students, we also welcome our on the go snacks and meals for that school social work hustle! This fall region 4A is using the results of the professional development survey we sent out last winter to offer options to learn about topics that you each have vested interest in. This October we will be hosting Gabby Fitzgerald from myHealth and Cathy Rude from Hennepin County Public Health to address the current trends and needs of students as it relates to vaping tobacco and THC products.

As your co-leads in 4A, we wish you a warm and energetic start to another school year where your impact is felt throughout your building and community. Continue to lead with your values and integrity as we embark on a new school year ahead.

Be well,

Julia Messenger, MSW, LICSW julia.messenger@ahschools.us

Megan Lagasse, MSW, LICSW megan.lagasse@ahschools.us

Region 6

My name is Shelly Fountain and I am the Region 6 Representative. I am a School Social Worker at Gordon Parks High School and am always inspired by our youth. Christy McCoy MSSWA Legislative Chair and SSWAA Past President will be co-presenting with me at the SPPS Social Work Department Meeting during Opening Week 2023. We will be holding a membership drive, providing updates regarding MSSWA and SSWAA and will also be giving away prizes to 4 lucky individuals who join or renew their membership at the meeting. My hope is to continue to empower our members by providing resources and support. If you are interested in stepping into a leadership role with MSSWA, I would love to have you join me as my co-representative! Stay tuned as I will be providing MSSWA updates throughout the year! Have a phenomenal year!

Region 8

Welcome Back to all of you in the northwest region area. We hope you had a relaxing summer as time sure does pass quickly. We are so excited to begin a new school year and are hoping to see you at our fall meeting as well. Watch your email for updates on the location and agenda for our upcoming meeting. We can’t wait to see you in person. :) Zoom meetings can be easier to attend, but in person always provides us with that ever needed face to face contact.

Have a great school year!

Reach out if you have questions!

Molly Janicke- mjanicke@nwric.com

Jeri Nomeland- jnomeland@nwric.com

Region 10

“A new school year means new beginnings, new adventures.”

Welcome back! We hope you enjoyed time away from school doing something that brings you joy and are ready for new adventures! We are in the process of planning our fall Region 10 in-person meeting. Please reach out with requests or suggestions of topics. We will send out details soon.

Best wishes on a strong start to new beginnings and adventures this school year.


Molly Cirillo mcirillo@isd200.org

Dan Porter danpporter@msn.com

Region 12

Wow! That summer went by fast this year! If you are anything like us, what gets us prepared for the next school year is starting to think of all the cute faces of students that we get to see in a couple weeks. They are the reason we do what we do!

Here is a little reminder of who we are as your region 12 reps for all charter school and ALC school social workers:

My name is Courtney Stenseth and I am entering my 13th year at MN Transitions Charter School in Minneapolis. I also serve as the intern supervisor, HHM liaison and Foster Care Point of Contact for our district and work primarily at our MTS Secondary program. I have been on the MSSWA board for approximately 10 years serving as a region 12 rep and also your Secretary for about the last 3 years.

As always, we are always willing to support you in any aspect of your work. We are also always looking for ideas for meetings/trainings that people would find helpful. Please reach out to us anytime.

Cheers to 23-34!

Courtney: cstenseth@emailmtcs.org

Abby: abby@agatesocialworks.com

New Bylaws

The MSSWA Board, in conjunction with consultants, has drafted new Bylaws for our association. We have used some of the language of the previous Bylaws but have written these to address certain legal requirements as well as to serve the future of our organization.

For many years, MSSWA has operated with the previous Bylaws plus a long listing of Board decisions directing the ongoing operations of the board. It is now time to update things so that our Bylaws are consistent with MSSWA’s practices. In addition to the Bylaws, the Board will be developing a set of formal Policies to replace the long list of Board decisions. The Bylaws will create a more permanent framework, with the Policies providing organization to board operations while being adaptable to changing circumstances.

Please review these proposed Bylaws (Click Here). Our membership will be voting on them at our annual meeting during the MSSWA Fall Conference - October 9th and 10th. Assuming that these new Bylaws are approved by the membership, they will replace our current Bylaws.

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Network and Outreach Committee Update

The purpose of this committee is to continuously be connecting with our colleagues, speaking to social work students to educate them about and create awareness about the field of school social work, and to be present at conferences where it would be important to connect with other agencies that serve children.

One of our goals for this coming school year would be to have a student representative(either undergraduate or graduate) on the MSSWA Board. If you are a student or have an intern you think would like to explore marco practice, please reach out to Courtney.

If you are interested in being a part of this committee, please reach out to Courtney. It is a great way to give back to the profession and also enhance your practice.

Courtney Stenseth, on behalf of the committee


Legislative Committee Update

Our legislative committee continues to elevate the mission of MSSWA, our school social work voices and legislative priorities at the state and national levels. We are grateful for our dedicated committee members who are not only leading macro advocacy efforts in their communities but also volunteer their time to serve on other state committees such as the Governor’s Children’s Task Force SubCommittee, the Mental Health Legislative Network, the Coalition of Licensed Social Workers, EDMN Special Education Task Force and so much more. MSSWA also acknowledges and truly appreciates each and every one of you who continue to advocate on a daily basis through having courageous conversations about race and equity, challenging policies and practices by responding to action alerts, offering verbal or written testimony, sharing your professional expertise and perspectives in meeting with your legislators and so much more. Together, our voices are powerful, resulting in advocacy efforts that make a real difference in the lives of students, families and communities we serve.

As shared previously, the 2023 Legislative Session was momentous for many reasons. To celebrate the many victories of this past session, MSSWA will be hosting an event during our Fall Conference to thank our members, pivotal advocates and stakeholders as well as key legislators on Monday October 9th from 4;30-5:30 in conjunction with the Fall Conference. We hope you will stop by to enjoy cake and refreshments. It will be an empowering opportunity to network with legislators and other stakeholders.

MSSWA is excited to share that many of our legislative priorities were adopted in the K12 Education Omnibus Bill and signed into law by Governor Walz at the conclusion of the 2023 Legislative Session. One major highlight came as a result of collaboration with MSCA, SNOM and EDMN that resulted in revenue set aside specifically for districts to hire new positions, retain positions hired with CARES revenue or increase the FTE value of a current employee that is less than 1.0 FTE in the areas of school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, guidance counselor, and chemical dependency counselors. An additional $5 million per year was allotted for a grant program to develop a student support personnel workforce pipeline focused on increasing school psychologists, school nurses, school counselors, and school social workers of color and Indigenous providers, professional re-specialization, recruitment, and retention which stemmed from our united advocacy efforts.

Another major highlight is that amended language was adopted for Federal Medicaid Reimbursement for the school social work services many of us already provide on an IEP/IFSP finally passed after 20+ years of advocacy. Why is this important? DHS now needs to work with the Center of Medicaid and Medicare to submit a plan that opens up reimbursement for our services which will provide a minimum of approximately $10-20 million dollars annually to support our students! This was a huge success! MSSWA, MASE and the various stakeholders who helped us move this amendment forward are monitoring the efforts of DHS in upholding the law and enacting the necessary changes for districts to begin accessing this funding.

Our success was attributed to the collaboration with so many partners and stakeholders who joined our advocacy efforts on many levels including:

Minnesota Administrators for Special Education; Minnesota Association of School Administrators; Minnesota School Board Association; NASW-MN; PACER Schools for Equity in Education; Coalition of Licensed Social Workers Association of Metropolitan School Districts; Minnesota Intermediate Districts ; Education MN; SNOM; MSCA; MASP; U of MN Humphrey Institute Policy Fellows; Lisa Hoogheem (Parent who offered verbal and written testimony); Rob Arnold (Assistant Administrator - Office of Specialized Services SPPS); Jenny Whitcomb (3rd party Reimbursement Coordinator MPLS)

A special thank you must also be extended to Representative Cheryl Youakim, Senator Frentz, Senator Kunesh for their leadership and unwavering support of the 3rd Party Reimbursement Bill. Chief Authors of the Student Support Personnel Aid bill Representative Berg and Senator Hoffman for their advocacy to invest funding for the critical services school social workers, school nurses, school counselors and school psychologists provide every day to holistically meet the needs of students and staff. Representative Kelly Moller and Senator Gustafson who were the lead authors of the bill for a Mental Health Lead at MDE. We also want to acknowledge all of the Representatives and Senators who signed on as co-authors for many of the bills MSSWA supported and who committed to this historic investment in Education and Mental Health.

Finally, we would like to express our tremendous gratitude for the coordination and collaboration between MSSWA Lobbyist Brad Lundell, NASW-MN Lobbyist Jenny Arneson, SPPS Lobbyist Jim Grathwol and MPLS Lobbyist Josh Dunham. Together, they developed an advocacy strategy that proved to be extremely effective in this legislative session.

With these wins, MSSWA looks forward to building upon this momentum and sharing information about our 2024 Legislative Priorities. If you are interested in joining MSSWA's Legislative Committee, please feel free to reach out to Christy McCoy MSSWA Legislative Chair. It truly takes a village!

How can you get involved and strengthen your impact and advocacy efforts at the macro level?

  1. MSSWA invites any and all who are interested to join us the 4th Wednesday of every month for our Legislative Committee meetings.

  2. Attend the free virtual TownHall hosted by CASEL and SSWAA that will highlight the role of SSW’s as SEL Leaders, September 27th at 1pm CST.

  3. Participate in MSSWA’s Day on the Hill during School Social Work Week in March! Not only do you earn 6 CEU’s, participants walk away feeling empowered as an agent of change knowing their voice could influence policy decisions affecting students, families, education and mental health.

  4. Respond to Action Alerts from MSSWA and SSWAA! MSSWA and SSWAA make it easy by crafting an action alert that you can cut and paste in an email or to use in a phone call. Simply add a few details of your own or send as is! This type of call to action takes only 5 minutes of your time!

  5. Follow MSSWA and SSWAA on social media to stay up to date during the legislative sessions and all through the year. @msswa @sswaa #Schoolsocialworker #schoolmentalhealth

Please do not hesitate to contact Christy McCoy MSW LICSW MSSWA Legislative Chair at 651-890-9988 or christymccoy07@comcast.net if you would like further information or resources to build your effectiveness at the macro-level. We need all of us to Rise Up and make our voices heard!

Legislative Update from Brad Lundell

Most of you have probably read multiple summaries outlining the significant amount of progress the Governor and the Legislature made during the 2023 session in addressing the needs of students throughout the state. It was truly an historic session in terms of both funding and policy with approximately $2.5 billion going to school districts in a variety of ways. Some of the revenue is tied to specific programs that aim to promote student achievement and bolster the number of student support personnel working in school buildings throughout the state that have been strongly supported by MSSWA in the past. It was great to see these proposals make it into the final bill and it wouldn’t have happened without the guidance of MSSWA’s leadership and active membership.

The effort to create an on-going revenue stream to support more school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, school guidance counselors, and chemical dependency counselors was initiated a decade ago and after years of work, it came to fruition this year with the establishment of Student Support Personnel Aid that will provide revenue to school districts to bring greater stability to the amount of support students will receive from specialized personnel. The initial aid is quite low on a per pupil basis, but there is a district minimum of $40,000 and the amount per pupil increases dramatically next biennium. The revenue can be used not only to hire new personnel, but to also retain positions that were funded with Federal COVID dollars. The creation of this funding stream is welcome given the increasing challenges students are facing.

Another positive development is the funding through grants for districts to implement MTSS framework. MSSWA has been involved in the development of this effort to make certain that aspects of student behavioral needs are met in addition to driving up achievement. It is important that students are “met where they are” and school social workers ensure that can happen.

MSSWA also provided strong support to the creation of a mental health specialist position in the Minnesota Department of Education. That also passed this session and the presence of this position will provide guidance and resources to districts and student support personnel throughout the state as we seek to address growing student mental health needs.

There was also progress in the area of non-exclusionary discipline and addressing the disparities in suspensions as they relate to students of color and students with special needs. This is another proposal that has been worked on and discussed for the past decade, but split government never allowed for the Governor and legislative supporters to get it past the finish line. With one-party control of the Governor’s office and the Legislature, this item—along with may others that have lie dormant for the past few years (as in the case of student support personnel aid)—was finally passed.

All of these items are extremely important, but another effort that has taken almost twenty years of discussion to gain approval is that of allowing school social workers to be reimbursed the Medical Assistance for services they provide to students with IEPs/IFSPs. Many of you have seen this issue hit a brick wall of opposition from the Minnesota Department of Human Services over the years as the school social work community tried to make its case that these services should be eligible for reimbursement. In 2021, legislation was introduced that would have accomplished this purpose, but the final result was the convening of working groups that studied the issue more closely. Unfortunately, no progress toward allowing reimbursement through Medical Assistance resulted from that work so legislation was introduced again in 2023 that would require the Department of Human Services to allow this practice. The bill took a bit of a circuitous route through the legislative process, but it was included in the omnibus education funding and policy bill. While this is a welcome (understatement) development, the Department of Human Services has to apply to the Federal government to allow this and discussions are going on between the Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and Senator Tina Smith’s office to clear the hurdles to implementing this policy. This correction is long overdue and it wouldn’t have happened without the concerted effort that was largely organized by MSSWA and the Minnesota Administrators for Special Education. The effort is well on the way to finally happening and its kudos to all of you who have pushed on this issue over the years.

This will be the last newsletter I will be writing as I am moving on toward retirement after the 2024 session and will not be under contract with MSSWA after the end of August, 2023. I want to thank all of you for allowing me to work with you over the past few years. You are truly dedicated to your work and without your efforts, student mental health needs and social support throughout the state would go unmet. I have learned a TON and I have a great amount of respect for MSSWA membership. I have had the honor to meet and work with many of you and it is an experience I will always treasure. Thanks so much for all you do and allowing me to be your voice at the Legislature.

Thank you Brad for your incredible work with our organization, you will be missed!

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