History

A HISTORY OF SCHOOL SOCIAL WORK IN FLORIDA
– FROM ITS ROOTS TO THE PRESENT DAY–

Compiled and edited by Sandy San Miguel, MSW, June 2012

The roots of school social work in Florida can be found in a first organizational meeting that took place in Tampa, Florida on April 10, 1942 during the annual state conference of the Florida Education Association.

A small group comprised of home visitors and truant officers, mostly from Central Floridaschool districts, petitioned the FEA Board to create a special section that would recognize their special role within public education. We were officially known at that time as the Attendance Assistants Section of the Florida Education Association (F.E.A.) from 1942 through 1950. Our first known leader was Fannie Tulloss (school district not named).

During 1943-1945 no FEA Section meetings were held due to the WWII years. In the ensuing years, the Section was led by Providence Velasco (1946 and 1947), Wilma Watson (1948), James Rice (1949) and Faye Wilson (1950).

Our oldest archival records indicate that Providence Velasco (Hillsborough school district) with a few other school district leaders from throughout the state planned and held our first state conference in 1946. It was for one day and held separately from the annual FEA state conference.  After that, annual meetings were planned to discuss the members’ evolving roles within Florida school districts as well as to take action defining those roles.

In 1951, the title certificate issued by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) was changed from “attendance assistant” to “visiting teacher” but no changes were made to the educational requirements for the certificate (you could have a college degree in any field). Our group name within FEA was changed to partially reflect this new certificate:Visiting Teachers and Attendance Assistants Section of F.E.A. and was ably led once again by Providence Velasco (1951 & 1952) and then Mary J. Gourley (1953 & 1954).

By 1955, the F.E.A. Constitution was changed to formally adopt the name to Visiting Teachers Section of F.E.A.

It was also during 1955 that Annabelle Brantley was appointed as the first FDOE state “visiting teachers” consultant and worked closely with the following leaders of the newly named section of the FEA.

  • 1955   Tallulah Earle Overby
  • 1956 & 1957 Paul B. Stephens, Jr.
  • 1958   Delia P. Sanchez
  • 1959   Mary S. Smith
  • 1960   Alan C. Hobbs
  • 1961   Edward O. Schweitzer
  • 1962 & 1963  D. Ralph Storey
  • 1964   Basil White
  • 1965   Ollis Smith
  • 1966   Agnes Martin
  • 1967   Jean Wallace
  • 1968   William Thiel
  • 1969    Elizabeth Gass
  • 1970   William Thiel
  • 1971   Dennis Fillingim

In 1972, section members appointed a group to develop By-Laws in order to form an organization separate and distinct from the FEA. The name Visiting Teachers/School Social Workers (VT/SSW) was adopted as the Association’s name in order to reflect the changing roles and competency of its membership.

At the state level, Josephine Newton was appointed as the new FDOE state consultantfor VT/SSW. She worked tirelessly with the following VT/SSW Presidents and their Boards who were elected from all parts of the state:

  • 1972   Eugene Boshell
  • 1973   Joseph Johnson
  • 1974   Gaye Katsaris
  • 1975  LawrencePool
  • 1976   Norman Richards
  • 1977   Naomi Knepper
  • 1978   Samuel Teague
  • 1979   Arthur Woodruff
  • 1980   Carol Thackham
  • 1981   Glen Kranzow
  • 1982   David Dupper
  • 1983   Wilma Austin
  • 1984   Mary Alice Valentine
  • 1985   Carol Smith
  • 1986   Kenneth Gaughan
  • 1987   Shirley Patterson/ Patricia Battista
  • 1988   Patricia Battista
  • 1989   Kenneth Marsh

Under their leadership the 1970’s and 80’s were proactive years for the Association as it expanded its activities and development to a more professional membership and began to acquire statewide influence at the governmental level.

By 1990, the name Florida Association of School Social Workers (FASSW) was adopted to emphasize the unique, diverse and increasingly professional social work role of its membership.  The following year, lobbyist Kay Young was hired by the Association to be its official legislative liaison inTallahassee to help promote and bring awareness of school social work related issues to state legislators. She also reviewed annual statewide education budgets and any emerging bills detrimental to the profession or our established platform issues.

The FASSW Board during the 1990’s also began to explore changes to FDOE certification rules that would bring it to the same educational level as other state student services professional groups. During this time, FASSW had the following elected statewide presidential leadership:

  • 1990   Madonna Wise
  • 1991   John Steverding
  • 1992   Alex Weinberger
  • 1993   Sandra B. San Miguel
  • 1994   Paul Holden
  • 1995   Paul Holden
  • 1996   Kathleen Boyle
  • 1997   David Chamberlin
  • 1998   Rhonda Terpak
  • 1999   Faye Kravitz

After an exhaustive search, school social worker from Duval County, Gria Baham-Davison was appointed as the FDOE state school social work consultant to take this important position from the retiring Josephine Newton.

After an almost 5-year process, numerous education commission hearings, written testimony from university social work deans, FDOE collaboration and persistent efforts, FDOE certification rules were finally changed in 1998 to require a degree in social workeducation for any new SSW state certification candidates. It essentially required that all future school district school social work titled hires have that degree. The name School Social Worker replaced the previous certificate title of Visiting Teacher. The FASSW Board saw these changes as finally providing assurances to school districts that future school social work employees would be trained professionals in the field, as were guidance counselors and school psychologists.

As we begin the 21st Century, FASSW has forged ahead (under the leadership of our state presidents indicated below) to meet new challenges to our profession by forming new alliances and collaborating with other state or national student services professionals on legislation and rules impacting the scope of our services to children and families.

  • 2000  Elizabeth King
  • 2001   Barbara Mills
  • 2002   Benita Tillman Brown
  • 2003   Wendy Kall
  • 2004   Donna Sicilian
  • 2005   Wilfredo Nieves
  • 2006    Robert Lucio
  • 2007    Robert Lucio
  • 2008    Douglas Spohn
  • 2009    Douglas Spohn
  • 2010    Beverley Wilks
  • 2011    Beverley Wilks
  • 2012    Wilfredo Nieves