Winston-Salem, Forsyth County school district in need of speech pathologists

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Traci Jermyn has been a speech-language pathologist for 17 years.

She has worked with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools for nine years.

“I love this job. As soon as I saw that speech pathologist at The Special Children’s School, I just knew that this is what I wanted to do,” she said.

Lately, finding more people like Jermyn has been a real challenge for the school district.

“Over the last several years, we have experienced an increase in the number of students who qualify for speech and language, and yet the number of candidates coming through has gotten smaller,” Susan Battigelli said.

Battigelli is the program director for speech and language services in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Part of the issue for schools is that speech pathologists have options to work in a variety of environments in both the public and private sectors.

“And we’ve found that it’s become a very competitive situation,” Battigelli said.

In order to meet the need across schools, the district has turned to outside help.

“We do rely on the contract agencies to fill positions when we don’t have direct hires available,” Battigelli said.

Ideally, the goal is to have more direct hires in the classroom.

“I’m just blown away because I figured by now, our field would be flooded,” Jermyn said.

Currently, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools has about 100 speech pathologists with about a dozen of them hired through agencies.

Tuesday, the school board approved additional contracts. The school system is working with six companies.

Leaders say using multiple companies makes it more competitive to keep costs down. Other school districts are also using contracted therapists.

Six vacancies are currently being contracted for Guilford County Schools. Four vacancies are being filled by contracted therapists within Randolph County Schools.