2023 Virtual Fall Conference
Registration is now open! This years conference includes a total of 75 clock hours & features presenters from around the world!
Carrie Suchy, Ed.S, NCSP, Franklin Pierce Schools
Who would have thought that in 2022 we would fondly look back at “the before times,” when the challenges we faced were compounded versions of the challenges faced by those who came before us? As we enter our schools this fall, we are comfortably situated in COVID times. It has been 3 years since the state-mandated school closures, and for many of us, this is the first year that feels almost normal again. As educators and mental and behavioral health providers, we have come through the initial crisis and are working through the ongoing trauma that is now. We as a community have experienced what felt like insurmountable obstacles. We have supported our staff, our students, and our communities through social, political, and public health crises. We are facing exciting changes in Washington schools. Through all of this, I am proud to have been a part of the WSASP Board and to now be the leader of this organization.
I look forward to connecting with members from across the state in SeaTac October 13-15th for what will be the first conference that may feel “like the before times” since the pandemic started. While there are hybrid options, this conference is primarily in-person with more than 40 in-person sessions to choose from. Our Professional Development Committee has impressed us all in these last three years with their flexibility and skills by pivoting from an in-person conference to a completely virtual conference to a hybrid conference. Now the association is moving forward in the ongoing pandemic by providing high-quality continuing education that is meaningful to all of us. As I look forward to the conference, an event I always enjoy, I find myself reflecting on what we have learned during these long 3 years.
Several things have been brought into the light during the COVID-19 pandemic. One fact made abundantly clear to educators is the significant inequities embedded in our society. Within our organization, we convened a Social Justice Task Force which is working to provide resources for school psychologists to enhance their own professional skills towards the goals of social justice and equity, including a compiled list of reading materials and plans for professional development opportunities coming soon. Simultaneously, as we have been working as a Board to improve our organization, we adopted the NASP Unified Anti-Racism Statement and Call to Action, a non-discrimination policy, the NASP stament on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism and the NASP statement on Racial and Ethnic Disproportionality in Education. We recognize the importance of this work as we endeavor to represent and serve ALL school psychologists in Washington, who then in turn endeavor to serve ALL students. We all have to do the work as individuals and organizations to reach this goal. Even prior to the formation of the Social Justice Task Force, WSASP has been vocal in support of legislation pertaining to equity and social justice in education, and this goal continues to be a priority for the Government and Public Relations Committee.
A second fact exposed by this crisis has two components. One being the reminder that our country is experiencing a severe mental health crisis that precedes the pandemic and is ongoing. This crisis impacts our students as well as our communities, our colleagues, and ourselves. The other side being that we as school psychologists are mental health professionals. The work we do addresses the mental and behavioral health needs of our students. Many of us, however, continue to be staffed at a ratio that limits our ability to exercise these skills. The WSASP Mental Health Committee has worked for the last several years to compile and produce wonderful resources to help school psychologists across the state at varying levels of staffing to identify and exercise their mental health skills.
Additionally, the WSASP Government and Public Relations Committee has posted the Advocacy Tool Kit, authored by former president Alex Franks-Thomas, to enable school psychologists to advocate for their role and other needs they have identified in their buildings and districts or going so far as to advocate at the state or national level. The GPR Committee continues to work with lobbyists through WEA to advocate for better working conditions for school psychologists across the state. The WEA ESA Committee is working to highlight and enhance the role of ESA’s within WEA and to enhance the support WEA provides to us as members.
WSASP is a member of the ESA Behavioral Health Coalition. This collaborative group includes representatives from the state organizations for school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, and school nurses. We work together on our collective advocacy goals. This last year we updated documents designed to assist individuals in their advocacy for our roles and the behavioral and mental health needs of our students. The ESA Behavioral Health Professionals' Roles Specific to Social and Emotional Health and Wellness document is published on our website and has been distributed by OSPI. The Coalition is now working with OSPI and the UW SMART Center on Interconnected Systems Framework, a powerful framework for the provision of collaborative, comprehensive services to meet the behavioral, mental health, and social emotional needs of our students under a Multi-Tiered System of Support.
A third fact highlighted by this pandemic has been the need to finally see the end of the discrepancy model for SLD eligibility in the state. We have known for years that this is not an evidence-based practice, and having to complete comprehensive evaluations without access to in-person testing, many school psychologists learned how to access other sources of data to inform this process. OSPI is working now on the replacement for this model of eligibility, and I am proud to have been selected as a member of the work group addressing this necessary change. Our students deserve better. We have a professional obligation to implement evidence-based practices in evaluation and instruction in order to ensure all students make progress and meet their goals. I believe Washington is taking steps towards that goal which will have a significant and lasting impact, and school psychologists are at the forefront of this work.
Personally, I have also learned that in Washington, and in WSASP, I have a community of peers who appreciate and support me. First I was honored to be elected into this position. Then, after becoming pregnant going into my year as President Elect, I have been offered nothing but support by the WSASP Board members and my own community of school psychologists. While taking maternity leave from work and the Board, I was able to enjoy the time with my new family because I was confident that my colleagues would take care of anything that came up. My son has been attending Board meetings since he was 4 months old and I returned to work, and not one time have I felt uncomfortable or unwelcome due to this. Many women find that having children prevents them from participating in leadership roles, and what I have learned in these last two years is that my community will support me in what I believe I can do. I hope that through the trauma we have collectively experienced, you have also found community and a support network to help you to achieve your goals, personally and professionally.
I love being a school psychologist. It is who I am. It is my goal that through my advocacy work and leadership in WSASP and WEA I am passing on support, resources, and opportunities for all of you to love this work more today than you did the day before. These are hard times to maintain optimism and hope. Burn out is all too real, and we have a long way to go in Washington until we are able to practice the full scope of our training. But I am excited to do that work, and I am proud to be doing that work as your President this year.
There is more information in the SCOPE newsletter about our committees, and if you feel excited about any of the work I mentioned here, or about other amazing work happening in WSASP, please get involved!
I sincerely hope each of you has a wonderful year and can take some time periodically to reflect on what we are experiencing, what we are learning, and where we are going from here.