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The Vital Role of Support Staff in Virginia’s Schools: Positions and Descriptions

School support staff play an important role in ensuring students are learning in a safe and productive environment.They can build trust with students, encourage parental and family involvement in education, improve school climate, and provide a wide range of services that keep schools running smoothly.

Here are some of the positions and vital functions that they provide:

School social workers are trained to respond flexibly to students’ life needs, recognizing that academic success requires a healthy home environment. Their responsibilities may include connecting homeless students to mainstream resources, assessing students’ mental health, providing individual and family counseling services, and coordinating crisis response.

School psychologists analyze complex mental health problems and learning disabilities in students and recommend interventions. They conduct threat assessments to ensure that curricula and learning environments are appropriate for a diverse array of learning needs and connect students to mental health services offered outside of school.

Family and community outreach/engagement coordinators serve the essential role of further integrating parents within their student’s academic life to improve student achievement. Specific responsibilities include facilitating workshops between parents, administrators, and students to help parents better understand their child’s academic needs and foster stronger relationships.

Maintenance workers and custodians ensure that all school facilities and equipment operate properly to foster a conducive learning environment for all students. Maintenance staff are entrusted with making sure the physical operations of the school function properly each day by repairing necessities such as electricity, heating, air conditioning, and much more. Custodians are vital to protecting the health of all students and staff personnel by providing cleaning and sanitation services throughout the entire school.

Food service staff and nutritionists are imperative to ensuring that the dietary needs of each student are being met and that they are offered healthy, nutritious meals daily. Nutritionists are responsible for making sure that the school is meeting state nutrition standards as well as keeping track of students with allergies and those who require meal assistance. Food service staff have the important task of preparing and serving meals to students to ensure that each student has the nourishment and energy to focus in the classroom.

Administrative and clerical staff serve a variety of functions necessary for schools to function smoothly. This includes helping keep finances in order, procuring supplies, corresponding with parents, sending out pertinent information to community members, and maintaining student records.

Other positions that are crucial for the success and well-being of students, not included within the state’s cap on support staff but still impacted by budgetary constraints, include:

School counselors have a myriad of responsibilities in meeting the academic, career development, and social and emotional needs of students. They assist in class selection, study skill development, post-secondary planning, and are involved in the positive social development of students both inside and outside of the classroom. Counselors spend time with individual students to work through concerns that may affect their ability to succeed as a student, such as family conflict, abuse, or problematic behavior.

School nurses attend to both the immediate and ongoing health needs of students and identify the social determinants of those needs, such as housing stability and access to health insurance. They are often the first responders to students in crisis, and also serve as health educators and care coordinators.

Bus drivers transport students to and from school and other locations while ensuring their safety and well-being. They may provide first aid in emergencies, keep the bus in a safe working condition, and are mindful of and respond to weather conditions.

To learn more about the important role of support staff in Virginia’s public school, check out:
Chris Duncombe

chris@thecommonwealthinstitute.org

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