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Union Says Clovis Unified Needs More Mental Health Staff to Aid Students



(GV Wire File)
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Clovis Unified has not escaped the nationwide mental health crisis that’s hitting young people hard, and the union representing the district’s school psychologists and mental health service providers says the need for student support outstrips available staffing.

The Association of Clovis Educators, which represents the district’s mental health workers and also is seeking to represent teachers and other certificated staffers, said school employees will discuss their challenges at Wednesday’s School Board meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m.

The board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the initial collective bargaining agreement between ACE and the district at 6:45 p.m.

Bernadette Rodarte, a Kastner Intermediate school psychologist, said in a news release from the union that staffers are seeing more mental health issues among students than ever before, including self-harming, drug and alcohol issues, anxiety and depression, and eating disorders.

“Without additional staff, we will continue to fall short of the high expectations that are the trademark of Clovis Unified, and our students will suffer,” Rodarte said.

Clovis Unified spokeswoman Kelly Avants said Wednesday she did not have an immediate response to the union. Later Wednesday, Avants provided the following statement:

“We recognize and value the work of our close to 80 school psychologists and mental health professionals and are actively engaged with them to negotiate an initial collective bargaining contract that respects the breadth and scope of what has already been accomplished as well as what is hoped for in the future. This work must also take place within the context of finite resources Clovis Unified receives as the lowest funded school district in Fresno County. Out of respect for the negotiations process, we won’t go into the details of a lengthy list of work already accomplished over the past five years or so to support the mental health of students and those working in this field; just an example of which is our decision last year to reduce the number of duty days for this group without loss of pay and the final outcome of work on a salary schedule study underway for all employees.”

More Staffers, Better Pay

ACE is in the process of negotiating its first-ever contract for the school psychologists and mental health workers. Its contract demands include that the district hire 12 more school psychologists to adequately staff schools and make their pay comparable with Fresno Unified school psychologists to stem the departure of Clovis staffers for better pay, which undermines caring for students’ needs.

Six school psychologists recently left Clovis Unified for better paying jobs in neighboring districts, the union said.

“As a classroom teacher, I understand this isn’t just about caseloads for our school psychologists and MHSPs. This is about our kids,” Amy Kilburn, a Clovis classroom teacher, said in the union’s news release. “We all know kids aren’t going to care about the Constitution, use of the comma, or how to properly strike out text if their mental health is not taken care of. This isn’t a school psychologists’ issue. This is an educator issue, and we support the changes they are presenting.”

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email