Policy Matters Blog

Nevada Finds its Advocacy Focus for SPAW 2019

The Nevada Association of School Psychologists (NVASP) went all out with their advocacy efforts for School Psychology Awareness Week this year. Teams of local members in the Clark County School District (Las Vegas) and Washoe County School District (Reno) organized their members to advocate for the profession to local and statewide officials.

Read below for a review of their efforts in both the north and south.

Clark County School District - by Stephanie Patton

In the Clark County School District, we are struggling with critical shortages, with more than 30 open positions. The average ratio in this district is more than 2,200 students per school psychologist. This was our top priority during SPAW. We created a letter template that could be used by educators and community members to send a message to the local school board and superintendent about shortage issues.

A couple weeks before SPAW, I reached out to the host of a radio show on our local NPR station. We met to discuss concerns, and he decided to do a show regarding the school psychologist shortage. I reached out to our state association's university representative and NASP, who both participated in the interview that ran the week before SPAW. This was a great way to get the word out about our struggles and to have a great story to share on social media leading up to SPAW. That interview landed an additional story with a local news station. Also before SPAW, we submitted information to obtain a Proclamation by the governor to proclaim November 11-15, 2019 as School Psychology Awareness Week in Nevada.

The week of SPAW, we started a contest with our members; we encouraged members to share how they spread awareness on social media. We had buttons made with the Find Your Focus image and bracelets with our name for our members to wear during the week. We utilized a NVASP Facebook group, email, and Twitter to get messaging to members and share messaging with the general public.

Luckily, there was also school board meeting scheduled during SPAW. We reached out to our members, encouraging them to attend and speak at the board meeting. I made shirts for those who could attend highlighting each of our ratios in schools, and we invited several news outlets to attend the board meeting. The school psychologist turnout at the board meeting was more than expected. Some of us spoke during public comment before the meeting began. I was able to get in touch with a school board trustee beforehand and learn a way to speak for a longer period of time. I signed up to speak on several agenda items and was able to combine my time into one, 10-minute speech. I wrote the speech to highlight our concerns while being honest and professional. The response was very positive, and the superintendent's office has since reached out for a meeting. Additionally, stories ran on at least four different media outlets. The video footage from the board meeting was trimmed and uploaded to YouTube, garnering close to 2,500 views. We shared the video on social media and in a couple school psychologist groups to help encourage others speak out.

Overall, we feel that we had a very successful SPAW. NVASP continues to advocate strongly for better salaries and ratios. In CCSD, we are currently in the process of filing a grievance to ensure psychologists covering vacant positions are compensated for their additional workloads. We know we have a long road ahead, but we are ready for the fight!

Washoe County School District - by Emma Dickinson

As part of the SPAW celebrations, a group of psychologists from Washoe County School District mobilized to advocate our role to the School Board.  Although not as stretched as in the Clark County, School Psychologists in the North face extremely large caseloads; some as high as 2,000 to 1.  Working conditions are fraught with problems such as lack of materials such as test kits and protocols.  Advocating to bring attention to these issues, psychologists constructed a statement detailing these challenges and presented to the School Board.  As a response, the School Board voted unanimously to proclaim and recognize School Psychologists during the week of SPAW.  Several board members reached out personally by return email to the NVASP president, which resulted in a face to face meeting with one member.  This discussion may result in future action, including a possible presentation to the board on student mental health, advocacy and action.

Utilizing the NASP advocacy action center, we drafted several customizable letters to be sent to various target groups throughout the state, including our State Board of Education, Members of the Legislature Education Committee, Clark County School District Board of Trustees, and the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.  The reception of the groups varied in their response.  In Washoe County, we were told that the letters became redundant and unwanted, however, the message they conveyed was received.  At the State level, the reception was much more positive and resulted in a robust discussion about how to carry forward our requests and embed language of ratios, and goals for these into the State Improvement Plan.