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Social workers join staffs at two schools

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Salaries funded by four-year federal grant

By Vince Luecke

LEOPOLD - The Perry Central School Board has approved the hiring of five people who will serve as social workers and program facilitators for a far-reaching, multi-year federal grant awarded this summer to Perry Central Community School Corp.

Jennifer Chestnut, Victoria Painter, Amy Hollinden, Angela Fleck and April Susanjara were hired by the board during a Sept. 14 meeting and will be paid through a Safe Schools-Healthy Students Grant worth $729,132 per year for four years. The grant is being shared by Perry Central and Tell City-Troy Township school districts with Perry Central serving as the fiscal agent and grant overseer.

Mary Roberson, Perry Central Schools' superintendent, said a committee representing both districts reviewed applications for the positions, continuing the collaborative effort that began with the funding application made last spring. Chestnut, Hollinden and Susanjara will be assigned to Tell City schools with Painter and Fleck working at Perry Central.

"All of us are excited about the work they'll be doing. It's an important part of our plans for the Safe Schools-Healthy Students program," Roberson told the board.

The scope of the four-year grant program is broad, with money supporting new and expanded programs to prevent violence and illegal drug use and promote safety. Funds will support efforts to help at-risk students.

Funds will help expand already-existing programs. As an example, a bullying-prevention program already under way in Tell City-Troy Township schools will be introduced at Perry Central while substance-abuse programs already in place at Perry Central will be shared with Tell City students.

Other money will support efforts to help students with incarcerated parents and the program will build ties between juvenile and justice officials for the county. Other programs will partner with groups such as Head Start.

As The News reported when the four-year, $2.9 million grant was announced, the funding is expected to create 10 to 15 positions, including social workers and a probation-department liaison. Though not a part of federal stimulus spending, Roberson said then the grant would provide major economic benefits in the community.

Lisa Lutgring was hired this summer to serve as the program's director.

Perry Central Going Green

Partnering with the Perry County Recycling Management District and other groups, Perry Central Schools is continuing its efforts to promote recycling through a Go Green Program. An Indiana Department of Environmental Management grant has purchased recycling bins for each classroom and a recycling trailer for the campus. Shipped from Nebraska, the trailer was expected to arrive on the school campus last week. Its 10 compartments will keep recyclable items separate and will be accessible to students, staff and the public, which will be encouraged to drop off items.

Roberson said the school will announce rules for recycling dropoffs and the types of items that will be accepted. Updates will be in The News.

Students are taking a hands-on role in the program, with Key Club members planning activities and working with the school's maintenance staff. Key Club and National Honor Society members are volunteering to empty bins and to supervise student volunteers.

Since the bins made their first appearance in the classroom, students have been the biggest supporters

"Our kids are really cooperating and we're really proud of them," Bishop said. Perry Central has recycled cardboard and paper for years, but will now be able to recycle plastics, newspapers and other items.

Some students have even patrolled trash cans and picked up plastic bottles and placed them in the recycling bins.

"The kids are excited about it. It's a project they're taking seriously," said Connie Bockhold, evening custodial supervisor.

Teacher Kris Walsh said special-education students are also getting involved in helping the program succeed and will use it to gain life skills.

The school-based recycling program won't affect the nearby recycling drop-off center near Branchville Correctional Facility.