Students at some Fresno Unified high schools could have fewer social workers on hand next year to help them with their social and emotional problems after the teachers union raised an objection because the workers were hired by contract and not directly by the district.
The issue arose during the ongoing negotiations for a new Fresno Teachers Association contract, which will expire at the end of June.
The district said FTA is requesting the termination of an $800,000 contract with Family Foundations “moving forward,” district spokeswoman Nikki Henry said in an email to GV Wire.
The district has employed Family Foundations employees to provide service to students at several comprehensive high schools, she said.
The district initially thought it would have to cut $2 million in contracts and services, but the issue was clarified Thursday afternoon during a negotiating session, Henry said.
“It will likely still be difficult for us to replace those services through internal hiring of full-time social workers, but we will do everything we can to minimize the impact to our students in the upcoming school year,” she said.
District like Fresno Unified have tried to boost staffing after the pandemic caused more students to experience social-emotional problems.
Fresno Unified has struggled to hire employees to provide mental health and social services to students. Even though the district budgeted sufficient funds to employ at least one school psychologist at each school this year, the district was able to hire only 20 of 27 new psychologists and seven of 15 additional regional instructional managers.
In lieu of hiring staffers, the district has turned to using contract employees to fill gaps.
Union: Students Not Served as Well with Contract Workers
But doing so bypasses the “sustainable practice of hiring licensed district social workers,” FTA President Manuel Bonilla said in a text message to GV Wire.
Fresno Unified needs to employ social workers who are both licensed as clinical social workers and also hold a Pupil Personnel Service credential, he said.
Rather than see gaps in service this year, the teachers union proposed that the contract remain in effect for the remainder of this year while the district seeks to hire licensed social workers for next year, Bonilla said.
The union also is advocating for Fresno Unified to collaborate with mental health support app companies that can provide students and their families with resources outside of regular school hours, which would give students support 24/7, he said.
“Our commitment to the well-being of our students remains unwavering,” Bonilla said. “We firmly believe that investing in properly credentialed professionals, expanding social/emotional support, and embracing technological solutions will create a supportive and nurturing environment for every student in Fresno Unified. Together, we can make a positive difference in the lives of our students and empower them to thrive academically and emotionally.”