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A Plea For School Psychologists As Philadelphia Continues Paring Schools Budget

By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A prominent education voice says that as the Philadelphia school district cuts its budget, it should make keeping its schools psychologists a priority.

No decision have been made yet, but reducing the number of school psychologists is among the budget-cutting moves being considered by the School District of Philadelphia.

Speaking to a meeting of the National Association of School Psychologists today at a center city hotel, former Philadelphia school principal Salome Thomas-El (at left in photo) said often it’s the psychologist who is able to help a struggling student succeed.

“It would be a huge mistake for any school district — not just Philadelphia, any school district — to cut the positions of people who serve our children in such an important way,” he says.

The Philadelphia school district is trying to find ways to cut $39 million more from its budget by June (see related story).

Kathy Minke, the NASP’s past president, says Philadelphia isn’t the only school district where psychologists face cuts.

“I would say the situation in Philadelphia seems to be more severe than what we’re seeing in a lot of areas in the country,” she tells KYW Newsradio, “but clearly the economy has forced hard choices on school districts.”

Pennsylvania requires districts to have psychologists on evaluation teams.  The services can be contracted out but Amy Smith, the NASP’s president-elect, says it’s better to have full-timers on staff to develop consistent relationships with students who need them.

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More from Mike DeNardo
  • PM

    Kathleen, Providing counseling services in the schools is the job of the school counselor. Except for the infrequent crisis case or student meltdown, psychologists are doing evaluations, writing reports and attending IEP conferences and due process hearings 98% of the time. It would be ideal for psychologists to be providing ongoing therapy for those in need but, as a 25 year veteran school psychologist (outside of Phila.), I only offer the most dire of warnings to the State and City.
    Your school psychologists are mandated by the I.D.E.A. to be on the multidisciplinary team and make appropriate placement decisions. If you have outsiders come in who do not know the students, parents or teachers, you will only spend more in the long run defending yourselves in court. Special education is mandated yet a scandalous melange of well-intentioned effort undermined by ill-informed opinion and the nonsensical dictates of No Child Left Behind. The field of school psychology is attracting less and less new graduates because of the inherent frustrations of no authority and ultimate responsibility. You’d better keep who you have.

  • Kathelleen Parsons

    I strongly feel that keeping psychologist in school will be beneficial to the student as they need someone to talk to. There are so much feelings going on in the world and the students do not know how to express them, especially positively. I feel that the psychologist should provide more of a service than what they are doing. These students need to learn about feelings and sharing them. The teachers do not have the time to do so. Please keep psychologist in schools. You will regret it if they are taken away. Take the sports away and just turn them into club sports. You are still trying at the school level,what the difference will be, you have to pay for the club sports. If it is anything like the school I deal with, I am paying for the school sport with this stupid sport booster. So, just make it a club sport and this will levitate more money to spend on the students.

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