School board hears about family facilitators

NEW ULM — The New Ulm School Board held a study session on the family facilitator program.

The family facilitator program operates in Brown and Watonwan counties. Brown County has four facilitators, two of whom work in New Ulm.

Supervisor and Program Director Jamie Rieser said the program began 25 years ago as early intervention services and works with the whole family. The facilitators work to determine the issues impacting the student’s school performance. Once an issue is identified, the facilitator works on a family goal to resolve it.

Rieser said in a year they work with 50 to 60 families in New Ulm. The facilitators would ideally handle 12 family cases. On average, cases are open for18 months, but some are a month or a year in duration.

The program is year-round, including the summer months. Rieser said there are summertime activities.

Brown County Human Resource Director Tom Henderson said the program is voluntary to the families. It is not a government requirement.

He said in the first years of the program it was difficult for families to agree to the program due to distrust of the county. Some mistook the program for child protection services.

As a program run through the schools, families are more likely to work with facilitators. Henderson believes the school became better at communicating the benefits of the program. Word of mouth has also raised the reputation of family facilitators and the stigma associated with mental health has diminished.

In other news, the board reviewed the self-evaluation and superintendent evaluations. The evaluations were on the higher end, but there was a discussion about providing information to the public. The board believes they were doing everything to be transparent and provide information, but the public might not be willing to search for the information.

Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said he recently saw a question on Facebook asking if school board meetings were public and if not, what are they trying to hide?

“We communicate in many ways,” Bertrang said. “It is on public access, it is in the paper, KNUJ comes in and covers and we are putting the videos onto our YouTube channel.”

The next regular school board meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, June 27, in the district boardroom.