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Chappaqua Schools Reduce Psychologists for 2012-13

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - The Chappaqua Central School District announced that it will  retain only two full-time psychologists among its three elementary schools for the 2012-13 school year.

Director of Special Education Heidi McCarthy said the need for psycholgists is significantly greater at the high school and middle school levels and the two elementary school psychologists will balance their time among the three schools.

"When we look across the buildings and across the different levels, at this point in time, our highest level of mandated counseling services are at the high school, "McCarthy said at Tuesday night's board of education meeting. "Our high school psychologist can have anywhere up to 35 students for whom they provide mandated counseling service, and the middle school services are high as well."

According to figures presented by McCarthy, children classified as having "emotional disturbance" increased from 37 in 2010-11 to 52 in 2011-12. The 52 students make up 11 percent of the 450 special education students in the district, with 55 percent coming from the high school.

"It's not a change in classification," McCarthy said. "I wish there was an easy answer. There's not. Districts elsewhere are also faced with this issue as well."

In total, the elementary schools will be losing 0.6 of a full-time equivalent psychologist, with 0.4 of a position being utilized for a central psychologist evaluator position to conduct evaluations for all three elementary schools.

"It is always very difficult to reduce positions and it becomes even more difficult when you look at the teachers who are in those positions, and we don't take that lightly," said Superintendent Lyn McKay. "The times are very difficult."

While the need for psychologists is currently greater at the high school level, some parents urged the district to look beyond the numbers.

"I'm concerned with this cut and not having a psychologist in each of the different elementary schools full-time and what that's gonna look like," said parent Nancy Davidson. "I think the psychologist may not have the opportunity to be proactive in preventing crisis, instead being reactive when something's already happened."

McCarthy said the figures and psychologist set-ups are never stagnant and the needs will be re-evalutated throughout the school year.

"Certainly as we go through the annual review season we'll be able to better determine those schools or those areas where we'll maybe be able to share staff," McCarthy said.

The total proposed special education budget shows a $498,715 increase, or 4.07 percent, from $12,241,108 to $12,739,823. The budget also shows an additional increase of $124,770 in transportation, or 8.51 percent, bringing the total to $1,591,343.

The overall 2012-13 budget is proposed to increase by $754,400, or 0.68 percent, however, the tax levy increase is larger due to a $350,000 reduction in federal aid, a projected enrollment decline of 17 students, increase in teachers' and administrators' contracts, a three percent increase in health insurance premiums, a 2.6 percent increase in the employee retirement system, equalization rates and more.

The projected budget shows a tax levy increase from $98,944,582 to $101,032,134. Despite the $2,087,552 increase, or 2.11 percent, the figures stay within the tax levy cap.

Tuesday was the second of four budget presentations that will be held in March. Next Tuesday’s presentation at 8:15 p.m. at Horace Greeley High School will focus on operations and maintenance, non-instructional, and fund balance.

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