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Schools hire some help

Educational psychologist hired to work in Yellowknife

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 31/01) - Yellowknife school boards will share the expertise and costs of a recently-hired, in-house educational psychologist.

Dr. Roy Mercer, who arrived in Yellowknife last week from Newfoundland, will divide his time between Yellowknife Education District No. 1 and the Catholic schools boards.

NNSL photo

Dr. Roy Mercer is a registered psychologist with a master's degree in educational psychology. - Jennifer McPhee/NNSL photo

Last year, a Yellowknife District No. 1 review of its special and culture-based education programs and services recommended hiring a psychologist.

Based on observation, interviews and a multitude of testing techniques, Mercer will pinpoint children's specific problems and recommend strategies to help them.

He will also work with teachers, making sure they understand the information and know-how to follow up, said Kern Von Hagen, superintendent of the Yellowknife Catholic Schools. In the past, Catholic schools contracted out psychologists. But Von Hagen said the number of completed assessments wasn't meeting the need.

Although reluctant to label students, Von Hagen estimates that from five to 10 per cent of students could be considered special needs students.

The boards will spend a combined $120,000 on salary, benefits, testing materials and other resources.

Yellowknife Education District No. 1 superintendent Judith Knapp said boards across the NWT utilize an early childhood team at Stanton Regional Hospital.

But since these specialists divide their time among the different boards, the waiting list grows long. This meant her district's schools would send complicated cases to Edmonton for assessment.

But the distance meant necessary follow-ups weren't happening.

Knapp said that's why they hired Mercer.

Teachers in Yellowknife schools are trained to make basic assessments and Yellowknife No. 1 schools have support teachers and counsellors at the schools.

"Roy is for the children you just can't figure out," said Knapp. "That's how he is going to help us."

Mercer is a registered psychologist with a master's degree in educational psychology.

He knows his new job will keep him busy.

"If it's like other places, there is always a backload of referrals," Mercer said. "There are lots of students to be assessed. But we will do our best."