Audit: Schools Need More Social Workers, Sch. Psychologists

by | Nov 28, 2023

Above: Teri Marx, left, reviews the special education audit with the EG School Committee Nov. 14, 2023.

School Committee is briefed on special education audit

East Greenwich public schools lack adequate staffing to support students with special needs, according to a special education audit conducted over the first half of 2023. 

Teri Marx of PLACE, LLC, briefed the School Committee earlier this month on the “EGSD Special Education and Instructional Practices Audit” which had been released to parents earlier.

The report by PLACE encompassed research done between January and July 2023 at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, and the data comes from reviewing 89 IEPs (individualized educational programs), 194 staff member surveys, 18 staff interviews, 15 parent interviews, and 164 classroom visits, which totaled 55.25 hours. 

“The audit that we are sharing with you today is a piece of a larger process,” said School Committee Vice Chair Nicole Bucka. She explained that the over 300 responses from a family survey last year regarding special education in the district left officials with questions that prompted the creation of this audit. 

The report found the district’s IEPs were generally compliant but not “internally consistent, meaning present levels were not addressed or services did not align with data.” Additionally, the report found “parents expressed a desire to be more involved in IEP development,” Marx said. She said many parents felt like “there’s already a plan” when they “get to the table.” Beyond helping with IEPs, she said, “parents believe that EGSD staff are caring and supportive but are not confident that their child services are resulting in their student’s progress.” 

Regarding MTSS (multi-tiered systems of support), Marx said there is “inconsistency across the schools.” She explained that the use of MTSS was more “robust at the elementary level” and lacking in “secondary school education.”

Staffing Shortage 

According to the report, EG schools do not have enough social workers and school psychologists.

Marx explained that experts recommend a ratio of one social worker per 250 students. That would require EG to have a total of nine social workers district-wide. EGSD has three – meaning the ratio sits at one social worker per 826 students, something the audit report called “several under allocated.”

Additionally, she recommends adding at least one more school psychologist, as there are only four district-wide, resulting in a ratio of one professional per 620 students, which is above the recommended one school psychologist per 500 students. 

She also mentioned the need for additional help regarding guidance counselors at the middle school while the needs of students at the high school are being met in that regard. 

Marx said the number of school nurses employed by EG schools is sufficient.

“It’s not that we want to cut these positions,” said School Committee member Dr. Eugene Quinn. “It’s that we have no choice.” He said budget cuts made years ago continue to have ramifications today.

In the most recent budget negotiation, EG Town Council approved a $47,202,998 school budget for 2023-2024, $500,000 less than the School Committee approved and asked for. As previously reported, Superintendent Brian Ricca mentioned that the $500,000 gap resulted in three positions not being hired, including a school psychologist.

“There’s not a blanket fix in terms of staffing, and those decisions require the community,” Marx said. However, she told the committee one thing parents in the district clarified during the audit was that “cutting positions should not happen in isolation and should be done with those community stakeholders’ voices as well.” 


Marx concluded her presentation with recommendations for the committee, such as requiring districtwide training in IEP development, clarifying the connection between MTSS and special education, and increasing the use of small groups and peer-assisted learning. 

To view all the recommendations Dr. Marx presented, click on her presentation HERE.

One School Committee member who wanted to put these recommendations to use immediately was Bucka, who said, “I would like to see us turn the recommendations into” prioritized items in a spreadsheet. “Just have it somewhere so we can periodically check if [something] is being worked on or not.”   

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