Four-school telehealth pilot on schedule for May launch

Lauren Szymonik, Strengthening Families Coordinator presents a check to Brenda Ayers, Darlington County First Steps; Tracy Redfearn, Child and Family Resource Center; Julie Mahn, West Hartsville Elem Principal. Photo by Melissa Rollins

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

During the Feb. 12 Darlington County School District Board of Education meeting, board members learned that the district is continuing to move forward in their four-school Telehealth pilot program; it is expected to be up and running in May. Chuck Miller, Director of the district’s adult education program, told board members that if all goes at planned, students at Pate Elementary School, Lamar Elementary School, Southside Early Childhood Center and North Hartsville Elementary School will be part of the pilot program.

“You were kind enough to bless us with a pilot this coming spring and I’m happy to report that we’re right on track,” Miller said. “When we initially met, Morphis Pediatric was the provider on the other side and that is still the case. It is my understanding that they are in talks with other providers as well that may be coming on, such as Carolina Pines Hospital and CareSouth Carolina. The contracts were reviewed and signed by the superintendent and send back to Telehealth.”

Miller reminded boardmembers that any agreement they sign is solely with Telehealth.

“We only contract with Telehealth; we do not contract with any doctor or provider,” Miller said. “Telehealth is the middleman between the school district and the provider. In cooperation with Diane Sigmon, the Telehealth group conducted a technology assessment and determined that our equipment is compatible with the mobile medical carts.”

According to the timeline provided by Miller, the mobile medical carts will be ordered in February and installed and tested in March. Consent forms will be sent home to parents in April and nurses will be trained on using the equipment that month as well. The pilot will then launch in May.

During his presentation Miller also gave board members information regarding the effects the flu has had on the district. Miller said that approximately four percent of the student body had the flu; staff numbers were slightly higher at eleven percent.

During the meeting, Children’s Trust of South Carolina presented a check to Darlington County First Steps for a program to be offered at a DCSD school.

Lauren Szymonik, Strengthening Families Program Coordinator, presented the $75,000 check.

“Children’s Trust of South Carolina is very excited to present this to Darlington County First Steps who has partnered with West Hartsville Elementary to bring the Strengthening Families Program back to Darlington County,” Szymonik said. “We are really excited for this team; they’ve shown commitment, dedication and some wonderful passion for this program. The first session starts February 22 so we hope to graduate our first group of parents by the first week of May.”

At the prompting of board chairman Jamie Morphis, Szymonik briefly explained how the program works.

“We will have twelve families that we host every Thursday out at West Hartsville Elementary,” Szymonik said. “We feed them a meal and then the families have an opportunity to garner some skills. Our target age range is children ages 6 to 11 but the entire family is invited. The parents will learn some parenting skills and the children will learn some coping and resiliency skills. The children come back together with their parents and they have an opportunity to talk about what they learned and practiced individually. We give them some homework to help them norm and form together as family. We’ll have a graduation for them at the end of the program.”

Morphis said that it sounded like a great program and he was interested to visit during one of the sessions and see the results at the end of the 14-week program. Board member Connell Delaine reminded board members that this was not the first time the program had been presented in the district, although Lee County First Steps had directed the previous session.

After an executive session with consultant Dr. Rainey Knight, a release was sent out Wednesday announcing that the district had four finalists for the DCSD superintendent post. The release said that 25 candidates had applied and nine were interviewed by the board. The four finalists are Dr. Chandar Anderson, Chesterfield County School District; Dr. Donna Hargens, Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville, Kentucky); Dr. Tim Newman, Orangeburg Consolidated School District 4; and Dr. Kevin O’Gorman, Berkeley County School District.

Drs. O’Gorman and Hargens will be in the district Feb. 21-22. Drs. Anderson and Newman will be in the district Feb. 26-27 for community meetings with the public.

Author: Duane Childers

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