Fresno Unified School District’s staff of school psychologists will continue to grow with the addition of two positions in the 2021-22 school year, district officials said Wednesday night.
And, depending on the outcome of ongoing budget discussions, there could be more.
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There has been significant growth in the number of school psychologists hired by Fresno Unified. Five new jobs were added over each of the past three years, raising the total to 77.
But a longtime Fresno Unified school psychologist had warned that the district was in danger of losing its eight psychologist interns, who she described as “the cream of the crop,” to neighboring districts offering early-hire contingency contracts.
Need to Balance Priorities
School board president Keshia Thomas appeared torn at Wednesday’s meeting over balancing the need for more school psychologists against other district priorities.
School psychologists are advocates for students’ well-being and assist them with processing issues such as problems with authority, poor academic performance, low self-esteem, and social anxiety.
School districts such as Fresno Unified, with a large number of students from disadvantaged communities, are in particular need of larger staffs of school psychologists.
Thomas said she was aware that the district had no openings for school psychologists but suggested the board consider adding new positions.
“I know that we don’t have a million dollars to hire seven people,” she said. “But seeing as our current status is where it is, is it possible — if the board chooses — is it possible for us to look into hiring a couple, a few? Two, three maybe? And what would that money look like?”
Interns Join Other Applicants in Pool
The district is working this week to add the interns to its pool of job candidates, Paul Idsvoog, chief executive of the district’s human relations department, told the board.
“We are possibly looking at some overfill,” he said. “Obviously we’re entering into our budget discussions, so therefore if it deems to be a priority of the board as we move through those budget discussions to add more, obviously we can do that.”
Although it had not previously been a priority to expand the staff again next year, said deputy superintendent Ruthie Quinto, the district’s chief financial officer, “right now we’re going to open two positions and get that process moving, so that we can have them in the queue.”
Fresno Unified’s Ratio Improving
Even with the new hires, Fresno Unified’s ratio of students to school psychologists continues to lag Clovis, Central and Sanger unified school districts. However, it is under the state average.
The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of 750 students per school psychologist, which a spokeswoman for the California Association of School Psychologists said is difficult to attain because of a shortage of job candidates.
Fresno’s student-psychologist ratio, based on its current enrollment, is now 951 and could drop to 927 next year.