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4 AGENCIES JOIN FORCES FOR MURRAY SCHOOLKIDS

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If a child consistently falls asleep in class, is absent a lot or has hygiene problems, it's difficult for teachers to know who to call for help.

Is it a problem for the schools, social services, county health or family services?The needs of many children frequently get overlooked because authorities are not sure whose job it is to investigate.

Murray School District has found a solution to helping children by involving four major agencies - Salt Lake City-County Health, the Division of Family Services, the Office of Family Support and the school district.

The program, called Early Success, has been remarkably successful because all agencies work together to help families, says Steve Hirase, Murray District director of special education.

"Many families don't know how to access programs," said Hirase. The school is the site that brings services together."

Operating on a budget of $85,000 in government grant funds, the three-year experimental program identifies children in their early school years, kindergarten through third grade. The intent is to make school a positive and successful experience - one that will benefit the children the rest of their lives, said Hirase.

A team of experts representing each agency and a parent representative meet weekly to discuss children who have special needs.

At one Murray elementary school, a teacher identified child whose teeth were black and seemed to hurt him constantly. The teacher referred the student to the case management team. Cooperating with the parents, the team had the child examined by a nurse and then referred to a dentist. The child had never been to the dentist before. He received extensive dental work at Primary Children's Medical Center without charge to the family. Without the distraction of painful teeth, the child has now become successful in school.

Martha Kupferschmidt, principal of Horizon Elementary School, says that teachers have become "tuned in" to the program. Local churches have contributed brand new clothing and hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes to the program to be given to families in need, she said.

Working together, the agencies have coordinated activities for children during the summer.

The goals of the Early Success program are:

- To strengthen the sense of value and belonging in the family.

- To assist the family to access community support systems and become self-sufficient.

- To work to improve the families' health, educational, social, mental and emotional development.

In its first year, the program has been implemented at two elementary schools in Murray District - Horizon and Parkside. Forty-nine students and 21 families have been served at Parkside Elementary and 21 students and 17 families have been helped at Horizon Elementary.

Carolyn Schubach, principal of Parkside Elementary, reported to the Murray School Board of Education that the program is a "powerful process" that changes the lives of students and families.