For several years, Harrison School District 2, like many other districts, has had difficulty finding and keeping licensed speech-language pathologists, explained Deirdre Shearer, D-2 special programs coordinator. “They are often difficult to keep,” she said. They must have a master’s degree and at least a year of clinical experience and generally earn $50,000 to $55,000. Many go into private practice or just burn out, she said.
At D-2, about 511 students need some form of speech therapy, including 247 whose main need is speech and language. The district employs five speech-language pathologists and has one on contract; two assistants work under their supervision.
To alleviate the shortage, the district, after trying a summer pilot program, contracted with San Francisco-based PresenceLearning to provide three speech-language pathologists who teach online. From afar, the three serve about 128 D-2 students.