Honoring the Knowledge, Expertise, Passion and Commitment of SPPS Social Workers


The month of March is National Social Work Month. Today we begin the annual celebration of School Social Work Week. Please join me in honoring the knowledge, expertise, passion and commitment of Saint Paul Public Schools social workers.

Most of the School social workers in SPPS are mental health professionals. Licensed by a state board, we can diagnose and treat mental health conditions independently. We play a key role in creating safe and secure school environments for students and staff.

District social workers help all of us understand that trauma -- sometimes known as adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs -- is common in children who live in poverty. Because so many of our students come from homes affected by poverty, all of us have to be prepared both to recognize and address trauma in our schools.

This month many SPPS staff members will be screening the film Paper Tigers, which follows a high school in Washington state in which the “paradigm is shifting from punishment and blame to . . .  understanding and healing the underlying causes of aberrant behavior.” Our SPPS social work office has purchased several copies of the film, and I urge you to host a screening at your school and discuss it with your colleagues.

I also encourage you to learn from our social workers, who believe in the innate potential we all have to create new neural pathways. When kids come to school, they can be on high alert -- stuck in a fight, flight or freeze mode because of what happens to them at home. Staff members can also arrive at school on high alert. Our social workers can give us adults useful tools for self-care, which can literally be lifesavers.

Our own Heather Alden was the 2012 National School Social Worker of the Year. She wrote of herself and her colleagues: “We may do our work in a classroom, at a table, under a table, outside of a home on the front porch or through a screened door. We may do our work with puppets and clay or graffiti and spoken word, before school or during lunch...nonetheless, we do the work." 

Thank you to our social workers for everything you do, wherever and however you accomplish it.


Michelle Viera Keleny   
SPPS Lead Social Worker