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Guidelines for School Needs Assessment Interview

By David Thompson, Sara Coleman, Eileen Goldschmidt, & Larry Jamieson

Facilitating effective communication between school psychologists and principals is essential in developing optimal working relationships within school communities. In turn, these collaborative relationships enable a more effective match between the needs of the student population and the services that the psychologist provides. With this in mind, an interview format was developed to shape conversations between psychologists and administrators regarding principals’ perceptions about the needs of their students, staff, and school communities. The interview also provides an opportunity for the psychologist to describe the broad range of services that they are trained to provide.

The following guidelines for conducting a school needs assessment interview were developed by school psychologists in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools. The guidelines were very beneficial in structuring the needs assessment process and are suggested as a model for other school districts.

Things to Consider When Planning the Meeting

  • Schedule the meeting in the early fall, after the opening of schools has been accomplished.
  • Schedule the appointment at a time of day most convenient for the principal.
  • Consider who should attend the meeting other than the principal. A principal may want other members of her/his administrative staff to participate.
  • If there is more than one psychologist assigned to the school, all psychologists should attend the meeting. This would enable discussion of their different roles, responsibilities, and schedules.
  • Explain succinctly the purpose of the meeting when scheduling the appointment:
    • To discuss and identify specific psychological services needed at the school
    • To prioritize the identified needs
  • Mention the amount of time the meeting will take (typically about 30 to 40 minutes).

During the Meeting

  • Restate the purpose of the meeting (identifying specific psychological services needed and prioritizing those needs). Explain that you will create a written summary of the meeting, using the School Needs Assessment Feedback Form provided below. This summary may be used by the school system for the purpose of future planning.
  • Elicit input from the principal in response to the different questions on the School Needs Assessment Feedback Form. Record the responses.
  • Discuss psychological services you presently perform and those you might offer.
    • Share information about your training, areas of expertise, and special interests.
    • Explain how you currently impact the school and those with whom you work by describing services that you provide. For example:
      • Individual and/or group counseling
      • Crisis intervention (individual and school-wide)
      • Behavioral, threat, and mental health assessments
      • Special education assessments, initial and reevaluations
      • Trainings and presentations for teachers, staff, parents, and students
      • Consultation with teachers, counselors, and administrators
      • Assisting teachers in monitoring their students’ progress and response to specific interventions
  • Discuss your ideas for future services based on the identified student needs along with your professional interests and areas of expertise.
  • Inform the principal about the required duties you have outside of the school.
    • You might provide your principal with a one-page summary indicating your assigned schools, weekly schedule, and a list of regularly occurring meetings and activities that you attend outside of the school. Include phone numbers where you can be reached.
    • Some of these additional duties might include:
      • Serving on a district-wide crisis team
      • Supervising psychology interns or mentoring new psychologists
      • Serving on administrative reviews and appeals
      • Attending required supervision meetings, staff meetings, inservices, and workshops
      • Participating on district-wide committees for planning programs and initiatives
  • At the end of the meeting summarize:
    • Your mutually agreed upon list of priorities
    • Issues or problems that both of you might consider and discuss at a later date

For a sample form, click here.


David Thompson, PhD, Sara Coleman, NCSP, Eileen Goldschmidt, PhD, NCSP, and Larry Jamieson are school psychologists with Fairfax County Public Schools, VA.