With another school year coming to a close, more excess letters will be handed out by DC Public Schools to another group of Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) members as well as Council of School Officers (CSO) union members. Among those impacted will be DCPS School Psychologists. Historically, school psychologists’ have been itinerant workers who were centrally funded and supervised directly by the Office of Special Education. School psychologists were generally responsible for several schools in most cases (sometimes more). Last school year, itinerant school social workers whose positions had previously been centrally funded by the Office of Special Education (OSE) were excessed and are now paid from the local school budget.
“WTU school psychologists will be officially excessed from their central office positions on June 1, 2012. The effective date of the excess will be the last day of school June 14, 2012”, according to a revised May 2012 “SEC and School Psychologist FAQs” that was sent to relevant staff on May 18, 2012 by Jason Kamras, Chief of Human Capital. By definition an “excess is an elimination of a Teacher’s position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring, or a change in the local school program, when such an elimination is not a ‘reduction in force’ (RIF) or ‘abolishment.” Not unlike 333 DCPS teachers who were excessed on May 4, 2012, DC school psychologists will no longer hold their current positions at the end of the school year.
DCPS Question: The SEC and school Psychologist FAQs packets posed the following question, “What will happen to the centrally-funded Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) school psychologists who currently report to the Office of Special Education (OSE) ?
WTU (school) psychologists “will have until August 15, 2012 to find a budgeted position at a school. If they cannot find a position by then, and if they meet certain qualifications, they will have access to the three excessing options in the WTU contract: 1) a $25,000 buyout; 2) early retirement, assuming 20 years of creditable service; or 3) a one year placement at a school during which they will continue to search for a budgeted position. To qualify for the three excessing options, WTU members must meet three criteria: 1) earn an Effective or Highly Effective IMPACT rating for 2011-12 school year; 2) attain permanent status (which one earns after two years of service in DCPS) by the effective date of excessing; and 3) have not opted into the IMPACT plus system.” Since Council of School Officers School Psychologists who are twelve month employees have a different collective bargaining agreement , they will be subject to a different set of rules than WTU members.
DCPS question: What will happen to centrally funded Council of School Officers (CSO) (school) psychologists who currently report to Office of Special Education (OSE)?
“They will receive reassignment letters on June 1, 2012 explaining that they will be working at a school site, not for OSE, next school year. They will have until June 11, 2012 to identify a principal willing to hire them. After that point, the DCPS Office of Human Capital will begin to place them into remaining vacancies. This process will be completed by June 15, 2012.”
Another reorganization is also underway for school year 2012-13 in DC Public Schools which includes a Reduction In Force (RIF) for many Special Education Coordinators (SECs).
Earlier during the DC Public Schools budgeting process for SY’ 2012-13, funding was no longer provided to local schools for Special Education Coordinator (SECs) positions. Many DC Public school principals complained about not being funded to keep their SECs. After an uproar by administrators, funding was made available to local schools for a small number of Special Education Coordinators (SECs) -approximately 40-50 according to my source. It is my understanding, that monies alloted for school social workers funding,which initially was part of the required school budget for 2012-13 was changed to flexible spending – thereby allowing principals to decide whether they wanted a school social worker or not. Last school year, all schools were required to have a .5 (half-time) school social worker at a minimum depending on the student population. Having the option to decide whether to hire a social worker or not, some schools used the monies for other positions such as the SECs position. It is sadto say that the majority of SECs will be losing their positions at the end of the school year.
DCPS question: “When will SECs who are losing their positions be officially notified?”
“Affected SECs will receive official notification that they are part of a Reduction in Force (RIF) from DC Public Schools on the last day of school, June 14, 2012. The reductions will go into effect on July 15, 2012, according to the revised May 2012 SECs and School Psychologists.
You might be wondering by now, why is DC Public Schools jumping on yet another educational bandwagon? The short and dirty answer is that DCPS claims that they are shifting to another model which no longer includes Special Education Coordinators (SECs). According to an April 26, 2012 press release by Chancellor Kaya Henderson titled: Increase in School Psychologists to Help DCPS Better Serve Students, she states: “…DCPS will shift to a new staffing model for 2012-13 school year that better utilizes the expertise of school psychologists. The change will allow schools to improve student achievement by leveraging the skills of school psychologists to build a student network that collects data, identifies students at risk for poor academic or behavioral outcomes, provides evidenced based interventions and monitors student progress.”
So here’s when being a critical thinker really comes in handy. Not for a minute do I buy the hype that this change in staffing is what is in the best interest of DC’s children. We must ask what’s really behind these changes? I for one believe that the Henderson administration and company wants to make us think that the central office is saving a boatload of money yearly when in fact they are just playing a game of musical chairs with staff. They are just shifting the funding from the central office to the local schools budget. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the reduction the central office will show in personnel costs is a cost savings measure. Not!
RIFing special education coordinators while a temporary cost saving measure to the District is a mistake and when the word gets out about the layoffs of special education coordinators (SECs), special education advocates and attorneys will be lining up to sue DCPS, litigation costs will sky rocket once again like they did pre-special education coordinator days. From where I sit, special education coordinators have been a God-send to the District of Columbia Public Schools, our students and staff.