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NASP Dialogues: Interview With NASP President Patti Harrison

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Dan Florell:  Welcome to NASP Dialogues, the dialogue podcasts focus on events and issues in school psychology. I'm Dan Florell, the NASP webmaster and moderator of our current dialogue. Today we're discussing the theme for NASP this year with president Patti Harrison. Patti, NASP's theme for the year is "Promoting Competence, Creating Capacity, and Expanding Opportunities." How does this theme reflect the priorities of NASP for the year?

Patti Harrison:  Thanks, Dan, and hi everyone, thank you for listening to this podcast. As Dan said, I'm Patti Harrison and I'm very pleased to be president of NASP for 2009‑2010. As Dan mentioned, our NASP theme for the year is "Promoting Competence, Creating Capacity, and Expanding Opportunities."

A little bit about how NASP comes up with a theme for the year: first, it's important to know that NASP has a very broad and a very strong mission, which is representing school psychology and supporting school psychologists to enhance children's learning and mental health.

NASP also has a five‑year strategic plan, and in the strategic plan we identify goals for the five year period that will allow NASP to carry out this mission.

Given that framework, then, every year numerous NASP leaders and NASP’s dedicated staff, look very closely at what are major needs to enhance children's learning and mental health. What are factors that are impacting and how can we support children, schools, families, and school psychologists to achieve the most positive outcomes?

So that's a little bit of the background of how we identify a theme for the year.

For 2009‑2010, in identifying this theme we looked at a number of important issues going on, especially in children, families and schools, there are many factors that are impacting. Of course, there are the budget issues in schools, those financial factors that are impacting schools and how schools can provide the best possible services for children.

Also impacting are family financial issues, and stress resulting from that within families, and how that's impacting children, their learning and mental health. And that relationship between the finances of schools and the finances of families, that's a major factor that we all looked at, that NASP and school psychology would need to be responsive to.

Another impact is that NASP is very much concerned with schools providing access to children for school psychological services.

School psychological services are key factors in promoting children's learning and mental health and it's important that children and families and schools have ready access to high quality school psychological services, to well‑prepared school psychologists.

So those are just some of the issues that the NASP leaders and the NASP staff looked at in terms of what needed to be priorities for 2009‑2010. Based on that, then we identified a broad theme for the year, "Promoting Competence, Creating Capacity, and Expanding Opportunities," for children, families, schools, and school psychologists.

A focus is on the many possibilities that we have to result in positive outcomes for children. Our philosophy is that children, families, and schools are strong and resilient, and in spite of these impacts going on right now there are many ways that we can enhance capacity and opportunities to insure positive outcomes.

Dan:  Going along with that, in the theme there are three real big components there, as you've mentioned before and I'm just going to ask you about each of these components and let you expand a bit on them. How is NASP going to promote competence for membership?

Patti:  The theme of competence relates to promoting competence of children, families, and schools, as well as promoting competence of school psychologists to provide high quality services for children, families, and schools. As part of our identification of a theme for the year, we also identified seven priority initiatives. Within these priority initiatives we have hundreds of different activities of NASP.

I would like to point out that NASP has numerous workgroups, committees, boards, programs within the NASP office to help us carry out these initiatives‑and we really are talking about hundreds of different types of activities.

Within the theme of competence, one of our priority initiatives is to support school psychologists' efforts with regard to changing roles, changing services, and significant needs within schools. Our goal there is to ensure that school psychologists are essential, valued personnel within schools and are providing services within this time of significant needs in schools, needs of children and families within schools.

A second broad priority theme within the competence activities is to insure that school psychologists are equipped to promote their practice and protect our services within schools.

Some of our activities within the competency area include activities related to legislation in education that's going on. This coming year will be an important time within education.

Nationally, the No Child Left Behind Act, which is the same as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, that will be up for re‑authorization in Congress. NASP has some key learning principles about how to ensure excellence in education and we will be promoting that as part of the No Child Left Behind re‑authorization.

These principles promote how to lower barriers to learning and promote learning, metal health, and competence of children in schools. That's one activity to promote what's going on in schools, to promote competence in children, and what's going on in schools.

In terms of activities related to promoting confidence of school psychologist, NASP has a number of professional development opportunities as well as some outstanding books and online learning events that will help us tie in the competence of school psychologist to what's going on in schools over the next year.

Dan:  So it sounds like we have a lot of various venues from publications to web resources that can help and assist school psychologists in all their needs, if they need to increase their competence in a particular area.

Patti:  Correct. It's really, to me, just amazing the number of resources that NASP has to assist practicing school psychologists, as well as graduate students in school psychology programs. In terms of very specific types of resources related to specific school psychology practices. The big focus is on the resources that are research based.

That is actually another priority initiative related to the overall theme of competence. A priority initiative for this coming year will be to develop that research base and provide those research based resources for school psychologists.

Dan:  Moving on to your second part of the theme here is how NASP is going to assist with creating capacity and what is meant by creating capacity.

Patti:  Creating capacity, again relates to children, families, school, as well as school psychologists. The focus is on engaging in activities that create the capacity of schools to be responsive to what children need. As I mentioned, schools are experiencing budget cuts, greater accountability standards, a lot of things are impacting schools. But at the same time, we have to ensure schools have that capacity to do what children need, or what works best for children.

At the same time, NASP wants to ensure that school psychology maintains that capacity to be responsive to what children need.

Maintains the capacity in terms of work force, the number of school psychologists that are available to provide services, the quality of their services, the graduate preparation of our new school psychologists that are becoming school psychologists right now in their graduate programs. We want to ensure that the profession of school psychology maintains that capacity to provide the services for children.

For example, a very significant activity for 2009‑2010 is the revision of the NASP standards.

NASP has four standards documents that are revised every ten years, so they are now being reviewed. These are standards concerning graduate preparation, credentialing, ethical principles, and practice guidelines.

These standards documents really define school psychology and our high quality capacity to provide services. These standards documents tell us the Best practices in graduate programs, in who we credential as school psychologists, how they practice ethically, and how they deliver their services. That's an important activity for this coming year.

Dan:  I was going to say that those three documents really are essentially our profession. I mean, it's the definition of who we are.

Patti:  That's correct. I think something that's important enough is another one of our initiatives for the next year is what I refer to as preparing the next generation of school psychologists.

For many years we have identified the potential for a shortage of school psychologists, especially in some regions of the country. Especially in rural area, as well as some urban areas where there are job openings that go unfilled because we don't have enough school psychologists graduating from graduate programs.

As a result, school psychology is identified in documents such as US New and World Report as one of the thirty best careers right now.

They've identified it as one of the best careers in the US Department of Labor Occupational Guide because there is such a significant need for us in schools and we need to ensure that we have, not only enough of us going into the workforce‑ enough of us completing graduate programs and going into the workforce‑ but also that our new school psychologists are very well prepared for what children are facing today.

 So we have a number of activities over the next year that relate to our next generation of school psychologists, our graduate students, and our early career professionals who are just now starting their careers as school psychologists.

Dan:  And so, getting into the third component of the overall theme, as far as expanding opportunities, you've talked a little bit about that. Is there other ways that NASP is helping to expand opportunities for school psychologists?

Patti:  A couple of our priority initiatives, for the next year is to expand on our opportunities for services to our members, for partnerships with other organizations, and for operational excellence ‑ what NASP does. And related to the latter, what NASP does, NASP does a lot very well, based on a lot of dedicated people all across the country. And we're going to continue to enhance those opportunities to provide services to members and to have an outstanding, strong organization.

For example, we have numerous resources for our members. These members may be regular members, or they may be student members. We even have a new category of membership, a student associate member category for undergraduate students.

Dan:  Oh, OK.

Patti:  Yeah. All of these members have available, on the NASP website, many, many resources. They also have resources such as blogs, e‑communities, Facebook. They have print resources because all members receive subscriptions to our newsletter, "Communique", as well as our research journal, "School Psychology Review". So member resources for all members will be important opportunities for our members.

But NASP, as an organization, has many opportunities through partnerships with other organizations in the D.C. area. We're very active members of IDEA Partnership. We have strong associations with the Department of Education, SAMSHA. An important activity for NASP, over the next year, is collaboration with the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control, related to the H1N1 flu pandemic that's predicted to hit children in schools especially.

Dan:  Right.

Patti:  And we're partnering with the National Association of School Nurses and PTA, along with CDC and the Department of Education to provide resources for schools, related to this potential flu pandemic. Not only to partner in collaboration with physical health issues, but also how that could impact learning and mental health and stress that's going on in schools. That partnership is a very important opportunity for NASP to contribute to what is a really major event for schools over the next year, major and scary event for schools over the next year.

Dan:  Right. Well it sounds like the theme for this year is definitely one that's all‑encompassing. It really taps into a lot of the positives of what NASP does, as far as the various resources and outreaches, and all those other wonderful things that as a NASP member that they're entitled to, and also promoting the position of the school psychologist. What other areas would you like NASP members to know that you're focusing on during your presidency?

Patti:  I think it's important to know that NASP is very focused on school psychology and school psychologists being seen as valued, essential personnel in school. NASP is very focused on promoting school psychology. We have a very big public awareness campaign in the works focusing on what our services are and communicating this to school administrators. So we're very focused on school psychology and access of children to services of school psychologists within schools.

We are very focused on assuring our members that school psychology is alive and well and very strong. There are some potential threats to school psychology in terms of budget cuts in schools. There are some concerns about a possible impact on credentialing through APA's proposed Model Licensure Act.

And NASP is very, very strong; we're a very strong organization. And our members should be assured that NASP is there for them, and we are an organization that they can have confidence in. We are their national organization, and they can have confidence in our strength over the next year.

Dan:  And I think that's a very powerful message that we do need to convey. Having been involved with NASP for a number of years, I've always been impressed about how much NASP gets done through all those partnerships and a lot of the initiatives that we've started. It's really improved the children and families' competencies, in addition to advancing our own profession.

I would like to thank Patti Harrison, the NASP president, for joining us today to talk about NASP's theme for the year. And that concludes this Dialogues podcast. Please tune in again for future Dialogues podcasts available on the NASP website.