The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education is taking a new step in recruiting school psychologists to the district.

On June 14, the board unanimously approved a one-year contract for $375,000 with Invo HealthCare Associates to recruit licensed psychology service providers. 

Director of Psychological Services Dr. Corliss Thompson-Drew spoke in support of contracting with the firm, and said the district's own recruiting efforts have not been “very successful.” 

“School psychologists is a very high need. We have lots of demand and fewer bodies,” she said. “So this is, again, a different way for us to just do some outreach and get people on board.” 

The nationally recommended ratio for school psychologists to students is one to 500, she said. In Forsyth County, she said that ratio is one to 2,450, with only 22 school psychologists serving K-12 and two psychologists for pre-K programs. 

“We have approximately 54,000 students in our schools. I'm not a math whiz, but I'll let y'all do the math,” she said. 

Thompson-Drew explained that the mental health services firm has access to resources and databases that allow for more extended outreach than what the district can do alone. 

The firm will also pre-screen candidates, verify that they have the necessary qualifications, and then provide the district with a roster. From there, the district can conduct interviews and make the final selections.

Board Member Leah Crowley said she had concerns about the cost, and wanted to know if the firm had a “fill rate guarantee” for the district. 

While the firm doesn't have a guaranteed fill rate, Thompson-Drew said that payment is contingent upon the recruitment since the district pays the firm to pay the psychologists. 

“If they were unable to place candidates, then of course we can't pay them for it because that fee is based on the candidate selected and their payment per hour of the person that they have,” she said. “If they produce nobody, they essentially don't get paid.”

It isn't clear how many psychologists will be brought on through this firm, but Thompson-Drew said that it will be as many as they can find without going over the $375,000 amount. 

She acknowledged that the cost is “pretty steep,” but said it was “well worth it” to get more people on board and lighten the load on the existing school psychologists in the district. 

“Psychologists are more than testers. We provide mental health support services. We do a lot of consultation, crisis intervention, suicide, the whole gamut,” Thompson-Drew said. “Comprehensively, that's the model that we do. But with the psychologists that we have, and increased demand, it is very hard-pressed for them to provide comprehensive services.”

She said her hope is that the psychologists hired through this firm will choose to stay with the district beyond the one-year contract. 

The contract will be funded through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) federal funds. 

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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