Purposes of the BCPS Social Work Archival Preservation Project
a) To document and preserve the limited historically significant records of the School Social Work Service, in my possession, as a former school social worker, and retired (after 25years) supervisor and administrator in the Baltimore City Public Schools.
b) To provide a unique perspective on the diverse roles, challenges and influences upon SSW staff, supervisors and administrators within a large, urban school system.
c) To encourage research and documentation of BCPS social workers at all levels whose early services and contributions to the education and general well-being of students, parents, educational staff and the community may not be fully known and appreciated.
d) To inform, encourage and inspire current and future school social workers with knowledge of the past that may lead to broader comprehension of the present and deeper insights into future possibilities for service.
e) To broaden the perspectives and stimulate the thinking of local, state and national decision-makers regarding the unique educational needs of children, and the ramifications of such as the primary focus of educational reform.
f) To assist the promotion of collaborative community and political actions to address and ameliorate the effects of social, economic and other societal inequities and conditions impacting educational reform and progress.
To facilitate the quest of those seeking knowledge and understanding of this Collection, I have included this section on abbreviations. Like all professions, fields and institutions, terms and names are often shortened in some manner to avoid repetition, save time and hopefully, promote efficiency.
In school systems, there may be frequent re-alignments with title changes, and more far-reaching re-organizations. The Baltimore City school system was not an exception. It is highly recommended that this section be consulted periodically, to avoid confusion. The School of Social Work Service has been assigned to various Divisions and Offices over the years, and sometimes has been re-named while retaining it's function, sometimes with added or diminished foci:
1. BC - SSW - Baltimore City - School Social Workers
2. BCPS or BPS (the latter in earlier days) - Baltimore City Public Schools
3. BIM - Bureau of Instructional Management - BCPS
4. BTU - Baltimore Teacher's Union
5. DEC - Division for Exceptional Children (an earlier name for special education section in BCPS)
6. DSE - Division of Special Education (BCPS)
7. DSS - BPS - Division of Special Services - Baltimore City Schools (as differentiated from DSS - the Department of Social Services -Baltimore City)
8. ETS - Educational Testing Service (in Princeton, New Jersey)
9. LEA - Local Education Agency (reference to Maryland's city and counties' education departments)
10. MSDE - Maryland State Department of Education (Referenced at one time as the Md. State Board of Education)
11. NAPSO - National Alliance of Pupil Services Organizations - Office in Washington, D.C.
12. NASDTEC - National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification
13. NTE - National Testing Exam (section of ETS)
14. OPS - Office of Pupil Services (The SSW Service was included in this office) At one time, this Office also was under the head of the Division of Vocational, Special, and Adult/Alternative Education and Compensatory Services.
15. OSEP - Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Dept. of Education
16. OSP - Office of Special Populations -(est.1993-94 in the Dept. of Family and Student Support Services, BCPS.) It replaced the Special Education designation and was headed by an Asst.Supt.
17. OSP - Office of Special Programs (BCPS)
18. OSPS - Office of Social and Psychological Services (The School Social Work Service was a part of this office)
19. PS & D - Division of Pupil Services and Development (An early Division in the BCPS)
20. PS & SP - Pupil Services and Special Programs ( one of the early Divisions in the BCPS)
21. PSASA - Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association (A bargaining unit of BCPS administrators and supervisors)
22. PST - Pupil Services Team (s) BCPS
23. PSTEAB - Professional Standards and Teacher Education Advisory Board (of the MSDE)
24. SSW - School Social Work or School Social Worker
Three primary factors prompted me to formally begin the process of documenting certain historical aspects of School Social Work in the Baltimore City Public Schools. It is difficult to categorize them without some overlap, but my provenance is first and foremost a function of personality and behaviors. Secondly, professional observations and experiences lent credence to this need. Finally, the opportunity arose to follow up on these inclinations.
Personality And Behaviors
Keeping notes, maintaining records, periodically writing down feelings and experiences before I knew about diaries and journaling, were important to me as a young person. Also, as a young child, reading was integral to my learning and development, and what I most enjoyed doing. Thus, I was a good student.
Because of my sensitivities to the lives of others and my own family experiences, I determined around the age of 10 years that my goal in life was to help others, especially children . Later, I realized that social work was the name for the professional field I would enter. Throughout my formal educational years, I saved report cards , diplomas, award certificates, and other such documents.
Additionally, some assigned papers in both college and graduate school were saved, and remain in my possession despite the many years that have since passed. Boxes of materials from paid and volunteer positions, as well as scrapbooks, ancestral information and photographs from childhood on fill space in my home. As a saver and undercover historian, I felt an obligation to inform future generations ... whether or not such knowledge was requested or considered desirable or necessary. My tendency to document, retain, and make copies of some of my activities during the 25 years of service as a social worker and then administrator and supervisor of the BCPS School Social Work Service resulted in boxed materials that were not seen, read or useful in any manner.
Professional Observations and Experiences
In 1973, the BCPS underwent a massive re-organization , changing from a centralized administrative structure to a decentralized one, encompassing nine regions. This meant that certain major executive and managerial functions were moved from close proximity headquarters to 9 buildings throughout the city, all headed by Regional Superintendents, with Regional heads for 5 different functions . The overall Head of the system, prior to the current CEO designation, remained the Superintendent of the BCPS, but the Regional Superintendents were given more governing authority than had previously been the case. As a result of this re-structuring, certain aspects of the old system changed dramatically. One effect that is relevant to this discussion is that the record-keeping system for the old service under which School Social Work (SSW) fell, was eliminated completely. Not only was SSW affected, but so were Psychological Services, Psychiatric Services, Attendance and Court Services and the Home Visitors Service, a paraprofessional program supplementing the Attendance and other Pupil Services programs. This was a devastating blow for the continuity of service delivery! Professionals of various backgrounds had administrative and supervisory responsibilities for staff whose professional training and qualifications were vastly different from their own, etc. And new forms, recordings and other systems had to be developed by each of the nine (9) new entities. Many challenges had to be met and resolved.
This incident is recounted in this context because it highlighted one of the main concerns of professionals in the host-setting of an educational facility .... the apparent lack of understanding or respect for the ways in which others work to assist educators, students, and families, and the import of documentation. This occurrence is also relevant because I received valuable early documents about the SSW service when they were retrieved by the person who preceded me in my position as Educational Specialist for the SSW Service. It is unclear how much warning Pupil Services administrators and staff were given before the well-maintained records room was literally dumped. The Specialist somehow learned about the removal of records from offices and she was able to gather a few materials, some of which she gave to me after she retired, and I was promoted to that position. She just celebrated her 95th birthday on Feb 14th (Valentine's Day 2009) at an assisted living retirement facility.
Many years earlier, I had been informed that the BCPS Central Office Library did not have an archival section that would accept school social work materials. Unfortunately, public school libraries generally in this state declined in importance, and gradually Media Centers evolved in some systems. (Funding cuts had an impact on this development, as well as in the music, arts, and physical education areas.) I do not know how accurate the report about non-acceptance of SSW materials or records were, as I was a SSW at the time, but that information stayed with me. It was a disappointing fact to me and may have unconsciously affected my need to hold onto records about our service. During those times, I did not consider what I would do with them. I suppose I was satisfying a compulsive need.
Shortly after joining the school social work staff in October, 1966, I began to save materials related to Function and other Committees on which I served, as well as the records of my work with other entities, agencies and organizations within and outside of the school system . As a professional, I grew more aware of the value of thorough documentation and accountability for one's actions. An incident with an Assistant Superintendent occurred later in my career that crystallized my need to ensure that I accumulate my own personal notes, correspondence, files of actions, decisions, memos, etc., along with those maintained in official records. This tendency to affirm results of contacts or decisions was not always desired or appreciated by some officials.
Defining Opportunity for Change
Ultimately, the records piled up in boxes and home files, and I was forced to consider what to do with them, particularly upon my retirement in March,1992. At that time, I was involved in numerous activities, some of which I continued and added to, particularly on the Maryland State level. In 2001, I responded to a call from the Executive Director of the Md. Chapter of The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to assist her and other volunteers to archive about 60 boxes of records that had been dropped off at The Langsdale Library at The University of Baltimore before her service as Executive. Library staff had done some preliminary separation of their contents into categories, but much more needed to be accomplished if they were to be readily accessible as Archives on the University's web-site, and for scholarly use. This experience was very informative and inspired me to consider the Library's Special Collection as a potential resource for my SSW materials. Tom Hollowak, the Head of Special Collections, was very receptive to my inquiries and provided me with additional training materials to supplement my orientation to the process of preparing materials for archival storage. As a result of his consultative expertise and support, I have been working with this project since 2002.
EARLY HISTORICAL RECOLLECTIONS FROM MY PREDECESSOR -- NELVA O. HOBBS (1983)
The accuracy of these remembrances cannot be guaranteed, primarily due to my note-taking at the time, and my subsequent efforts to assemble them into a fairly concise format. I had visited Nelva in her neat, attractive apartment where she resided with a long-time friend. (For varied reasons, my later intention to tape-record interviews with long-time school social work supervisors and others did not work out.) Nelva and I had lunched at restaurants periodically after my promotion to her vacant position, but she may have been recuperating from a minor illness when we agreed that I would visit. Our conversation led to this information that she agreed to allow me to record in this manner. At the time, no thought of compiling an archival record of this and other materials had entered my conscious mind. It was all part of my instinctive awareness that I should save information relative to my job and school social work in the system. This process may have been prompted by her decision to give me materials that she had retrieved back in 1973 when the Pupil Services Division’s student records and the office’s records were destroyed. This occurred in the wake of the massive re-organization of the BCPS system in 1973.
For at least two years prior to beginning work as a visiting teacher (the early name for school social workers) in November, 1947, Nelva was employed as a teacher by the Baltimore City Schools. It happens that she had teaching credentials as well as a social work degree. The Baltimore City Child Guidance Clinic provided the staff supervision of visiting teachers. They also had the same salary as teachers, which salary was pro-rated over 11 months, instead of 10, but their hours were from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Teachers began work earlier and ended their days earlier.
The schools were segregated then and there were 4 or 5 Black workers. (Nelva is white; I did not note their numbers.) Twenty schools were assigned to each worker, including 2 high schools which received on-call services. Workers visited schools on a 2 week schedule – one-half day per school, and visited until 5 or up to 9 pm. Lunch-time was not scheduled as one had to transport oneself to the second school. Case write-ups took place during dinner, etc.
During the 11th month (July), medical and vision tests were arranged for students, home visits continued, camp referrals were handled; necessary items were solicited for their use from agencies and organizations. Workers also followed children who moved, and were transferred, until it was resolved whether they were in or out of the area. She did this for 3 or so years. Then more workers were hired and school assignments were decreased to 8 schools, with 2 on-call. This continued for a long time.
The first real change, as Nelva put it, occurred when the workers got two months off during the summer! They returned to work by September 1st. This was not the same return time for teachers. The visiting teachers worked very hard, with all of their tasks, and writing/maintaining continuing records of all that they did for each student. Concise summaries were not allowed. There were also detailed statistical reports.
One of the issues was that the visiting teachers (who were required to have a BA with teaching experience and or experience in social work), were not under the rule of the principals. This was problematic from their point of view. They wanted the same kind of control that they had over counselors, who were assigned full-time to their schools. Thus, visiting teachers had to understand this perspective and learn how to deal with it. They needed to respect the fact that the principal was responsible for the decisions made in that school, so that the importance of discussing views and situations could not be minimized. Nelva made known to me an interesting fact. Teachers once had been paid by the day when they entered the system. There was no salary, as such. They were kept at a Class 11 minimum for 3 months, and some remained for years at that level. Once they “passed” that level, they were on probation for two years before being granted tenure.
As Nelva and I talked in 1983, we noted that the pendulum was swinging back, as it always does, to desires on the part of some for longer school days, more school days, more teacher evaluations, fewer holidays and other measures, not always commensurate with meeting the learning and growth needs of individual students.
As of this writing, 95 years old Nelva and I remain in contact through phone calls, letters and visits to her at the retirement facility in which she resides in Baltimore County.
NOTE: I am saddened to report that Nelva died on June 18, 2010 at the age of 96. I was out of town at the time, so I learned of her death from retired school social work colleagues. Her financial advisor provided me with details of her interment, and that she is resting in peace next to her sister, her only sibling, at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Baltimore County.
Joan Y. Harris, ACSW