“What does a chaplain do?” Groft asked himself for the board. “Two things: They listen and they support.”
As an example of his work, Groft spoke of starting the last school year with three potential suicides. Recognizing that he could not properly help one boy, he referred him to the appropriate social-service agency, staying with him and his family for a week and a half until he could see a counselor. The other two boys he was able to help. He dismissed one in January, and the other did not want to be dismissed and stayed with him through the end of the school year.
“As you all know, the counselors that we have in our schools today are just overwhelmed,” said Groft. “And mostly it’s with paperwork and number-pushing. To have somebody that can sit down with a student and really listen to them, listen in a non-judgemental way, guide them, direct them to various services, whether it’s faith-based or whether it’s social services, is extremely important.”
Chaplains make faith-based recommendations in appropriate circumstances, and their presence on public school campuses is legal in accordance with the parameters set by the Lemon v. Kurtzman Supreme Court ruling that they one, provide a secular service; two, service people of all faiths and of no faith; and three, are free of excessive government and excessive religious entanglement.
Failure to adhere to one’s chaplaincy training in religious expression could lead to immediate dismissal.
Teachers, counselors, administrators and even secretaries can fill out a chaplaincy referral form to recommend a student be seen by a chaplain.
“None of my chaplains will see anybody whose parents have not been notified,” said Groft. “We get their permission.”
Trustees expressed interest in bringing Groft’s program to Patterson schools. Chaplains would have to be recruited locally and then trained by Groft—again, at no cost to the district.
“We’ve had senior citizens who have asked, ‘How can we help?’” said Trustee Michele Bays.
“I think this really gives them an opportunity to have an impact.”
After school program
Director of District After School Programs Alysonn Cassidy reported that they are servicing approximately 700 students, down from the 1,000 the district serviced during the five-year grant they had received for high school programs.
In response to Trustee Amy Hussar’s question about whether the district is actively pursuing bringing back the high school program, Cassidy said that she was informed several months ago that they did not receive the grant they applied for in November.
Districts can re-apply, however, every year, and once they get accepted, they receive the grant for a five-year cycle.
In the meantime, Cassidy is exploring different options.
“I have met with three different Patterson High people who are interested in creating a program where they’ll work for free,” Cassidy told the board.
The annual tour of after school program is Tues., Sept. 16 at 3 p.m.
Recognizing good deeds
“I was at Walmart and these two feshman boys I let go ahead of me,” began Trustee Kay Silva Johnson as the Aug. 18 meeting winded down. “One was Roman and the other one was Keith—there were the nicest two guys. I let them go ahead, so then they asked if they could do anything for me. They went and got my ice and … they came to my cart and put my stuff in my car. The nicest two guys, I couldn’t believe it.”
Tonight, at each of the district’s elementary schools, is back-to-school night.
On Sept. 4 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. the district will host the grand opening of the new Professional Development Center on 530 Keystone Blvd., Suite C.
And the next PJUSD board of trustees meeting is Monday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. in the PJUSD conference room.
Nathan Duckworth can be reached at 209-892-6187 ext. 24 or email@example.com.