Thank You to Our School Social Workers!


National School Social Worker Week is celebrated this year from March 6 to 12 to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school social workers. The theme for National School Social Work Week 2022 is “Time to Shine.” We believe that School Social Workers shine brightly for their students, families, and school communities. Shining hope. Shining understanding. Shining respect.

Read on to learn more about School Social Workers and what some of them do at SFUSD.

Who are School Social Workers?

School Social Workers are trained mental health professionals who focus on coordinating the efforts of schools, families, and communities toward helping students improve their academic achievement and social, emotional, and behavioral competence by using the unique perspective of viewing the person in their environment. School social workers seek to ensure equitable education opportunities; ensure that students are mentally, physically, and emotionally present in the classroom; and promote respect and dignity for all students.

SFUSD School Social Workers have a Masters Degree in Social Work and a Pupil Personnel Services Credential in School Social Work from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Many are also Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.

SFUSD’s School Social Worker to student ratio is lowest among California public schools, thanks in large part to San Francisco Public Education Enrichment Fund. SFUSD employs 15% of California public school School Social Workers, but makes up less than 1% of CA public school students, according to the 2017-2018 PEEF Annual Report.

Creating Welcoming School Environments

School Social Workers are meaningful contributors to establishing and communicating a welcoming school environment. School Social Workers promote authentic family partnership, respect and uplift culture, listen with their ears and their heart, and foster safe and supportive school environments. When all students returned to school buildings in the fall, social workers welcomed all students and families back to buildings, supporting them to adjust to being back in buildings and also reconnect with friends and classmates. This included creating spaces for students and families to connect and heal.

For example, Carrie Tanaba, the School Social Worker at McKinley Elementary School, is co-leading McKinley’s first-ever Pride Club and helped launch a brand new Wellness Center at the school.

Fostering Hope and Resilience

School Social Workers serve students, families, and the school community. In this role, School Social Workers often give hope to individuals who are feeling overwhelmed and build and nurture student and family resilience and protective factors. School Social Workers recognize strengths in the child or family, offer support, help them visualize a way out or around a challenge, and come alongside them to help them see a brighter tomorrow.

At SFUSD high schools, Wellness Coordinators / School Social Workers Marcus Christmas, Sydney Fisher, Alexis King-Gallman, Kniesha Primes, Wade King-Gallman, and Fenicia Jacks formed a work group last year called Black Educators and Students Thriving (B.E.S.T.), and started a group called Black Boy Poems for Black students across ten school sites in collaboration with Freedom Soul Media Education Initiatives. Students explored their identity, history and other issues through hip-hop in this healing and empowering affinity space. There will be another training for facilitators this month.

Identifying and Linking to Resources and Supports

School Social Workers realize that life is full of challenges, difficulties, and barriers to success. Children and families can be faced with a variety of barriers like poverty, homelessness, mental health challenges, lack of access to needed resources, bullying, academic challenges, inequities, and injustices. School Social Workers will use their knowledge and skills to support students and families, leverage resources, and help identify solutions or coping skills needed to navigate rough waters. During the pandemic, Social Workers in SFUSD have provided support to thousands of students and families needing access to basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, technology). Additionally, Social Workers are often a co-facilitator for the Coordinated Care teams at school sites. Coordinated care teams align systems and staff at the school.

Patrick Mulkern IV (Central School Social Worker) and Michael Geier, the School Social Worker at Tenderloin ES, worked to partner with St. Vincent’s to allow SFUSD School Social Workers to assist families in setting up accounts to shop for free clothing at a citywide clothing pantry.

School Social Workers throughout the district continue to do amazing things for their schools, and we will continue to highlight more of their work throughout the month on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. Thank you to all our SFUSD School Social Workers for all they do for our school communities!