On June 4, 2015, the School Social Work Association of America, the New York State School Social Work Association and the Columbia School of Social Work co-sponsored New York's "inaugural school social work conference". The theme was "21st Century School Social Work: Changing the Discussion to Improve Mental Health in New York City Schools".
On June 4, 2015, the School Social Work Association of America, the New York State School Social Workers' Association (NYSSSWA), and the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) co-sponsored New York's "inaugural school social work conference." The theme was "21st Century School Social Work: Changing the Discussion to Improve Mental Health in New York City Schools." Over 250 school social workers from the New York City metropolitan area participated at Columbia University, including folks in two overflow rooms as registration grew beyond the main meeting room capacity! Participants were welcomed by Dr. Craig Schwalbe, Interim Dean of Academic Affairs, CSSW, and Ovita Williams, Interim Assistant Dean and Director of Field Education (CSSW). Conference planners extraordinaire Julie Beatrice, NYSSSWA Treasurer, and Cindy Bautista-Thomas, Associate Director of CSSW's Field Education Program, also gave greetings.
Myrna Mandlawitz, SSWAA Director of Government Relations, keynoted the conference. Myrna gave a rousing speech, highlighting the national landscape on school mental health and the need for school social workers to join together through the state and national organizations to raise the visibility of the profession and ensure services for students and families. Her presentation slides are linked below.
See Myrna Mandlawitz's Keynote Powerpoint: National School Mental Health Debate
Conference participants were offered a variety of break-out sessions ranging from honing practice skills to using dance therapy and movement to reach students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Former SSWAA Executive Director Frederick Streeck spoke about SSWAA, its history and current organizational focuses and was joined by Hai-Ping Yeh, president of NYSSSWA, who gave the state organization perspective. Ursulina Ramirez, Chief of Staff to the NY City Chancellor of Education and an MSW, addressed the group about the status of New York City Public Schools and was given a great deal of "feedback" from audience members about current unmet needs.
The conference was an excellent opportunity for school social workers to engage in networking and high-quality professional learning. Columbia has already expressed interest in hosting another conference next year! Other states should work with school social work training programs in area colleges and universities to provide similar opportunities for their school social workers.