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Social Workers and Psychologists Newsletter - January 2015

Happy New Year! I hope you had an enjoyable holiday break spent with family and friends. As we start 2015, I want to commend everyone for making it through this past year. I know that it wasn’t easy, but I truly hope that you are celebrating your successes.

I would like to take this opportunity to share a little about myself for those who don’t know me. In addition to serving as your chapter leader for the last three years, I have been a delegate for social workers and psychologists for 16 years. I also previously served as our chapter’s representative for social workers and psychologists in east Brooklyn. I have developed and maintained good working relationships with the DOE, and I am hopeful positive communications with the new administration will continue.

As your chapter leader, I am committed to seeing that the interests of our chapter are vigorously represented to the Department of Education and within our union, both in New York City and the New York State.

As you know, the previous administration at the DOE has tried to diminish our roles to simply being psychometricians, intake workers and compliance officers. Unfortunately, many of you have also taken on additional roles covering classes, monitoring lunchrooms and completing clerical duties. But even though the challenges we face have been difficult, we have shown that we have the expertise and perseverance to meet them and have asserted our roles as key providers of clinical support for students. We know that we, the psychologists and social workers of the UFT, have the training and commitment needed to provide the best possible clinical services to children and families in our care. Our union is working with the new administration of the DOE to build the time to allow us to provide these necessary clinical services.

As our union continues discussions with the DOE on the need to improve mental health in our schools, I will continue to bring your concerns to the forefront.

We are lucky to be members of a union that is a strong agent for change and that is dedicated to improving conditions for our member so that we can best serve the students of this city.

As always, I am here for you. Feel free to contact me or your borough representative with any issues, concerns, questions or suggestions. You can reach me at


Vanessa Pressley
Social Workers & Psychologists Chapter Leader

For chapter members who work in high schools

All school psychologists and social workers who work in high schools are invited to meet with Janella Hinds and Sterling Roberson, vice presidents for the UFT’s high school division, on Jan. 20, 2015 at 50 Broadway from 4 to 6 p.m.

It is imperative that you show up to meetings with the vice presidents to share your concerns about your work in high schools and to learn their perspective on the issues in our schools. In particular, please contact me for information on how the “campus model” affects school-based support teams. Include in your email information on the number of days assigned to the respective schools at your campus, caseload issues, and details regarding working with administrations of different schools.

Our chapter was honored on Teacher Union Day


Our union president, Michael Mulgrew, with me and three other functional chapter leaders upon our chapters winning Ely Trachtenberg Awards on Teacher Union Day. From left, Cecilia Cortez, Hearing Education Services Chapter; Mindy Karten Bornemann, Speech Improvement Chapter; myself; and Diane Grant, Nonpublic Schools Chapter.

Reports on social worker-student ratios now required

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law on Nov. 5 a bill that will require the Department of Education to report to the City Council more information on guidance counselors and social workers in public schools. Under the bill, which was introduced by City Council member Antonio Reynoso, the DOE will be required to report annually on the number of full- and part-time guidance counselors in each city school and the ratio of counselors and social workers to students in those schools. Read the full article in NY Teacher »


We continue to have concerns regarding the current workload, working conditions and treatment of our chapter’s members. Often times, members are asked to provide lengthy paperwork. As a result, caseloads continue to grow, and members are still compelled to work from home to meet the overwhelming demand.

I am demanding the DOE hire more social workers and psychologists to alleviate burdensome workloads and afford us the time to provide much needed clinical services to our schools. If you are a psychologist, you are entitled to clerical support to assist with case management duties. If you do not have clerical support, please note the extra duties you are now performing and file a workload dispute.

In addition, the UFT executive board has approved a resolution that our chapter will submit to the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Representative Assembly regarding the need for more personnel to resolve these recurring issues.


Many members have expressed concerns regarding paperwork issues. Our new contract has strong language regarding the elimination of excessive paperwork, and I am working with union leadership and the DOE to gain relief. The citywide central paperwork committee, which is composed of UFT and DOE representatives, meets on a regular basis and remains committed to ensuring that paperwork demands are reasonable and designed to meet the needs of students.

Please notify me and your school-based chapter leader if there are any excessive requests for paperwork, or if you encounter any difficulties.

Professional development

Our new contract gives us a greater voice in helping to shape our own professional development that pertains to our clinical roles in the schools. In June, we met with the DOE to help craft professional development that was subsequently offered on the first day of school and in October. Reports from attendees was that they felt the PD was helpful and a great start. We are continuing to meet with the DOE regarding our PD. When you attend a PD workshop, please provide me with your feedback regarding the relevance of the PD to your role. In addition, please send me any suggestion for future PD topics. This feedback will help guide our consultation meetings and improve future PD workshops.

Turning 5 process

For years the Turning 5 process has been burdensome for our elementary school colleagues. We have made this clear to the DOE year after year. This year middle schools in addition to elementary schools have been directed to perform the evaluations in an attempt to ease the burden. The process has begun and I want to monitor it and the amount of cases assigned to the middle schools to make sure cases are assigned equitably across schools.

Please review your caseload and consult your supervisor of psychologists.  If there is a high T5 caseload or the addition of the T5 cases makes your total caseload overwhelming, request assistance. If there is no assistance offered, then file a workload dispute.

If you have any issues or concerns regarding the T5 process, please contact me. 

Consultation issues

In addition to the issues around paperwork and professional development, the following issues have also been brought up in consultation with the DOE:

  • Social workers at schools with pre-K programs are now required to complete an enormous amount of paperwork. We have asked that the paperwork be reduced. Many new hires do not work in payroll schools. We are asking th DOE to assign a payroll school for every new hire so each individual has a point of contact for issues like observations, ratings, and tenure decisions.
  • Related service providers in our D75 schools have been directed to manage cases for annual reviews. We have informed the DOE administration that related service providers do not case-manage annual reviews. We continue to discuss with the DOE ways to ease the caseload management burden more generally.

LYFE social workers

Social workers in the Living for Young Family Through Education (LYFE) program should know that I am aware that there is a problem with the LYFE program’s Standard Operating Procedures Manual (SOPM) as it relates to social worker duties. Many of the duties that were assigned to social workers overlap with duties that can be performed by other staff members. Therefore, I am reviewing the document and assigned duties. I will also meet with our union’s D79 representatives to discuss ways of addressing assignments with the DOE.

CEUs for license renewal

As of January 2015, the New York State Education Department is requiring all social workers to get Continuing Education Units/Credit (CEU) for license renewal. Please visit the NYSED website for more information and a list of approved providers.

Although we will be unable to provide CEUs at our upcoming conference, we are currently exploring ways to assist you in obtaining some of these units.

Member spotlight

I am so proud to represent such an accomplished group of members. With this newsletter, I want to begin short profiles of some of our members as just one small way to recognize our achievements and share among us our ideas and views.

Joan Smith - Social worker

Social worker Joan Smith doesn’t mince words after 27 years on the job and certainly not after what she calls, “Les Miserables,”— the 12 years under Michael Bloomberg.

Smith, who works at PS 45 in Staten Island and serves as that borough’s representative for our chapter, says her post-Bloomberg bucket list includes adding significantly to our chapter’s ranks. The number of colleagues she works with hasn’t changed since 1979, but the number of students and the complexity of their needs “have exploded,” says Smith. In many cases, most social workers and psychologists also serve two or more schools.

“When I started, the needs were mostly academic. Today, they are much more emotional and behavioral, as well as academic. Our kids need more of us.” Smith says she shared this view with Chancellor Fariña at a recent meet-and-greet, and she is hopeful for change.

Lisa Murph – Psychologist

For Lisa Murph, two things have remained unchanged in the quarter century since she became a school psychologist. “I still hate the paperwork,” Murph says, “and I still love the kids as much as the day I started.”

An active member of the Deployment Advisory Committee, she places social workers and psychologists in Bronx high schools.

“I want them in the right settings so they can do their jobs,” says Murph, a 16-year veteran at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx. “I tell new ones, ‘It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding work.’”

Save the dates!

Saturday, Jan. 20: Come to a special chapter meeting for high school social workers and psychologists at the UFT office at 50 Broadway from 4 to 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 21: Come to a special chapter membership meeting for elementary schools social workers and psychologists at the UFT office at 50 Broadway from 4 to 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 27: Come to the 9th Annual Clinical Professional Development Day for social workers and psychologists at UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway from 8 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

For more information and to register for these and other events, please check our UFT calendar.

Go to calendar for information or to register for events »

Upcoming conventions

National Association of School Psychologists Convention
Date: Feb. 17-20
Location: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando.
See more details or register online »

National Association of Social Workers, New York State Chapter, Convention
Date: March 20 
Location: Albany, N.Y.
See more details or register online »

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Related Topics: Chapter News