Melissa Marlowe and Susan Hayes are Danville Independent Schools' district-wide school psychologists, and we want to give them the recognition they deserve during National School Psychology Week. We asked them about their roles in the district, what got them into school psychology and the most challenging and rewarding aspects of their job.
Marlowe went to school in Danville, and when she was at Danville High School, her mother, who was an instructional assistant for the special education department at John W. Bate Middle School, and the teacher recruited Marlowe as the coach for their Special Olympics team. They also helped develop an independent study for special education services for her to work in the Functional Mental Disability unit.
After she married and became a mother, she went back to finish school at Eastern Kentucky University, where she got into the school psychology program and also got into the autism spectrum disorder specialist program.
"I knew that, as soon, as I took my first psych class, I knew that it was what I wanted to do,” she said.
Now, Marlowe is finishing her 10th year in practice. This is her first year working in the Danville district, “But it’s really cool to come back and be in my home district, my alma mater.”
Her primary responsibility is evaluating students and assisting the Admission Release Committees, which determine eligibility for special education services for students. She's using her autism education background to get ready to do a second professional development for the preschool program at Mary G. Hogsett Primary School for their instructional assistants working with children with autism.
In addition, she helps develop behavioral plans, interventions and is on the Positive Behavior Intervention Support system the district uses to work with Hogsett Primary.
The most challenging part of the job, she said, is learning about some of the backgrounds children have, which can be heartbreaking.
“The most rewarding, and something that I personally see the benefit of, is that my job is to wrap not just the student but the parents, the siblings, and the teachers that work with those students and come from a holistic approach.”
Like Marlowe, Hayes studied psychology at EKU. She moved to New York City briefly, then ended up in Lexington working with the Department for Community Based Services. After she went through the school psychology program at EKU, where she graduated in 2016, she's always worked in Danville.
"I kind of knew this was for me the second I discovered the career path in spring 2013," she said. "I've always wanted to work with a more at-risk population and in a role that provides early intervention to help them become more successful. All research supports the positive impact of early intervention and I strongly feel that through intervention and preventative strategies/procedures we can help students to reach their full potential. I'm especially interested in working to create more preventative procedures and policies."
She supports the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support from the district level. Her roles are, like Marlowe, attending ARC meetings, and conducting individualized evaluations, and writing the Integrated Psycho-Educational Evaluation Reports. She works with teachers and counselors on behavior interventions and is on the Response to Intervention committees for each building in the district, helping develop academic intervention plans and reviewing student progress data.
She also participates on the PBIS committee for Edna L. Toliver Intermediate School and the district committee.
"Along with one of our counselors, I'm the designated Trauma Informed Care for Educators Trainer," she said.
ARC meetings can be the most difficult part of the job, she said.
"In these meetings, I'm often having to deliver difficult news to parents about their student's cognitive, academic, adaptive, or social-emotional functioning," she said. "In some situations, this may be the first time the guardian have heard this information, but even when it isn't it isn't something any parent wants to be told. So it is sometimes difficult to balance being considerate of a family's feelings about a matter but not misleading in what you're reporting. I want to be understanding of how difficult the information I'm delivering is to hear, but I also don't ever want to mislead a parent."
As far as what is rewarding about her job, she said it's "Working with students and seeing their growth. I love when I test a student at re-evaluation and they no longer require support because they've made so much growth."
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