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District MOU with ThedaCare on hold

Agreement would allow therapist on school grounds
By: 

The Shawano School Board had to postpone a vote Monday on a memorandum of understanding with ThedaCare after it found itself without a quorum.

Only five of the nine board members were in attendance, and that number dropped to four after board member Chuck Dallas had to recuse himself due to a conflict on interest. Dallas is on the board of directors for the Rural Health Initiative, a program run through ThedaCare.

There was also concern from some of the remaining board members that they had not received the memorandum and thus were only voting on something based on a staff report.

“We’re voting on something that we didn’t technically read,” said board member Alysia Pillsbury. “We’re taking your word for it.”

The process had started during the last school year, according to Kim Klister, director of pupil services for Shawano School District. A mental health grant had been written in the hopes of expanding the district’s services to students, but the district did not receive funding.

“This was meant to bring therapy onsite for our students,” said Kelley Strike, the district’s curriculum director. “There was a lot of competition and a lot of school districts applying.”

Even without the grant, the district wanted to do more to provide mental health services onsite, so officials reached out to ThedaCare, which expressed interest in having a licensed therapist onsite for two half-days each week at Olga Brener Intermediate School and Shawano Community Middle School.

“There are so many students that are in need of additional counseling, and with the current work that our existing social workers have already, this allows the licensed therapist to come into the school and go much more in-depth than our social workers or guidance counselors can,” Klister said.

There is no cost to the district, Klister said, except for providing the necessary office space.

Strike added that the cost would be through families’ insurance, the same as it would be if students and parents went to ThedaCare itself for mental health services.

“Sometimes the barrier of getting to the hospital or to the counseling appointment is a concern, so this is bringing (the service) onsite,” Strike said.

If approved, the deal would take effect when the new school year starts in September, dependent on a vote by ThedaCare’s board of directors.

The next school board meeting is May 1.