School psychologists support the ‘Power of Possibility’
“Power of Possibility” is the 2020 theme for National School Psychology Week (Nov. 9-13), and the professionals in Fayette County Public Schools work steadily to help all students reach their potential. “FCPS is proud of the school psychologists who practice comprehensive support services for families, children, and staff. They are dynamic and well-versed experts who focus on supporting individuals to be successful through the ‘Power of Possibility,’” said Adam Liechty, an associate director of Special Education. “It fits very nicely with the goal that Manny (Caulk) has laid out, which is to have students prepared for a global society. School psychologists are a great advocate for all children to be successful in society no matter what they choose to do.”
FCPS employs 38 school psychologists districtwide. Each of the six high schools has a full-time psychologist who also serves special programs like the STEAM Academy. The rest work in elementary and middle schools, with each covering one or two locations. Among their responsibilities are special education evaluations, counseling, and assistance with behavior consultations. They also work alongside families in supporting mental health. “We’re really well-trained to do a lot of things,” said Liechty, the immediate past president of the Kentucky Association for Psychology in the Schools (KAPS).
Of course, the FCPS team has had to adjust this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “As mental health professionals, we know this is a particularly challenging time for children and families. I’m really proud of our group and what they’ve been able to accomplish remotely,” Liechty said.
Patrick Ballard, who took over as KAPS president in July, also helped revamp the organization’s fall conference. Instead of a weeklong in-person event, KAPS opted for three days of virtual meetings spread over October, November, and December. The first session included a segment on self-care because even the professionals are stressed by the pandemic. The Nov. 13 topic was policy, featuring government officials from Frankfort. December’s tentative focus will be social justice, particularly how to support diverse students.
Ballard has experience with myriad types of students at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, where he is in his fourth year, at the Family Care Center, and at the Audrey Grevious Center. “For me, it’s been eye-opening because Dunbar is very diverse, and every day is something different,” Ballard said. “We try to work with kids so they feel like they can be heard and helped. It’s very fulfilling to be a part of that.”
Ballard, who was Kentucky's School Psychologist of the Year in 2018, indicated one key element is compassion. A school psychologist might cry with a family over a diagnosis, but also must provide hope. “It’s important work,” he said. “You get to work with a lot of different groups of people – with kids, parents, teachers, administrators, and the community as well, and you get to see how it all plays together. Hopefully, you can inject some positive influence.”
(Posted Nov. 12, 2020)