March 6, 2007 Feature

Ohio Grant Addresses Personnel Shortage

Innovative Strategies Meet Short- and Long-Term Goals

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and Ohio State Board of Education recently approved $5 million ($2.5 million per year for two years) to fund a proposal to address the shortage of speech-language pathologists in the schools.

The proposed program includes eight initiatives aimed at meeting three key goals: increasing the number of graduate-level students, encouraging more SLPs to work in the schools, and improving retention of school-based SLPs.

"I think if these initiatives succeed, immediate and future personnel shortages will be resolved because 100 new SLPs will enter Ohio's school workforce every year," said Nada Allender, project coordinator for the Ohio Master's Network Initiatives in Education-Speech Language Pathology (OMNIE). "If these initiatives are successful in making a difference, the Ohio Department of Education will continue funding in future years."

Developed by 16 stakeholders in just six weeks, the Ohio proposal testifies to the power of collaboration and political will in solving personnel shortages without licensing speech-language pathology assistants.

Avoiding Assistants

The path to solving the problem of chronic shortages started with a frustrated school administrator who couldn't find qualified SLPs to fill job openings in his area and asked his state legislator for help. The appeal led to a legislative study on how to solve personnel shortages. The study concluded that the answer was licensed speech-language pathology assistants—bachelor's-level professionals who could provide services to students under the direction of a licensed SLP. The legislature approached ODE about the licensure of assistants, and a three-member committee convened in early October to discuss the issue.

By the next meeting, the committee had grown to 16 stakeholders with representatives from Ohio's speech-language pathology and audiology professional organizations, academic graduate programs, the state licensure board, and department of education.

While the use of appropriately supervised and trained speech-language pathology assistants can be part of a multi-pronged solution to the shortage of qualified personnel in some states, members of the Ohio coalition agreed it was not a practical solution in Ohio. "Our mission was to craft a viable, creative plan to address the shortage of SLPs in the state by developing short- and long-term goals," said Kelly O'Reilly, a lobbyist for the Governmental Policy Group, which has represented a coalition of professional associations for the past 18 years.

Race Against Time

With the school year in full swing, students in some districts—particularly in rural areas—were receiving minimal speech-language pathology services. In other districts, staff juggled heavy caseloads or relied on contracted service providers. The ODE pressed the committee for a proposal presentation at the board's Dec. 11 meeting—just six weeks later.

"We knew we needed to address both the short-term and long-term problem of keeping SLPs in the schools," O'Reilly said. "We had to have a multi-part proposal so that we could get more SLPs in the schools as soon as possible—and then keep them there."

Each member of the committee, chaired by Lou Staffilino, ODE's associate superintendent, voiced concerns and ideas and developed recommendations. E-mails flew back and forth as initiatives were developed, Allender recalled. "With the development of the recommendations, travel, and meeting participation, everyone spent an enormous amount of time away from their regular jobs," she said.

Each stakeholder crafted a proposal that addressed the needs of all constituencies, including universities, professional communities, and school districts.
"Collaboration was the key to developing the proposal," Allender noted. "For example, universities compete for students, yet the graduate programs were able to come together and collaborate for the benefit of all involved."

The committee developed the final proposal by selecting among proposed initiatives, based on the outcome-effectiveness of each, and the state Board of Education voted to fund the proposal in December.

"ODE provided the support and resources to look at a long-term vision, rather than to just fix the immediate problems," said Barbara Conrad, a speech-language supervisor and consultant with the Ohio Speech-Language Supervisory and Audiology Network. "The ODE was open to hearing about the issues and possible solutions to have an impact over time. They realized that committee members had their fingers on the pulse of the issues and trusted us to draft great, innovative solutions."

Staffilino commended the level of professionalism among the committee members. "In my 34 years in education I have never worked with a more professional group of people," he said. "Each SLP brought unique work experiences and viewpoints, and the committee worked together to solve the issues.

"We all had one thing in common-we knew we had students who needed services and districts that needed SLPs," he said. "Our work was how to meet the need."

For more information about the proposal, contact Nada Allender, OMNIE project coordinator, at, or visit OMNIE's Web site.

Susan Boswell, is an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader. Contact her at

cite as: Boswell, S. (2007, March 06). Ohio Grant Addresses Personnel Shortage : Innovative Strategies Meet Short- and Long-Term Goals. The ASHA Leader.

Solving Ohio's Shortages

The Ohio grant of $2.5 million for each of two years willl fund the following eight initiatives to address the shortages of school SLPs:

1. Increasing graduate enrollment and developing a paid internship in hard-to-staff schools.

Several of Ohio's 10 academic programs agreed to add more student slots to each of their programs, increasing the number of students by 50.

During the first year, these interns will complete an intense series of graduate courses on campus; they will then complete any remaining courses through distance learning. "The graduate programs are front-loading the critical courses," Allender said, "so that the following two years will be devoted to clinical practice in the schools." The interns will receive $12,000 during the first on-campus year to support tuition and housing.

In the second and third years, interns will be employed in the participating school district at a rate of $25,000 per year, plus benefits. In addition, the district will support a portion of the student supervision costs. The graduate program is completed after the third year, and SLP must commit to three additional years of employment as fully licensed district employee, for a total of five years of service in the district—two years of internship and three years as district employee.

District administrators must apply for participation and collaborate in identifying graduate students. "Rural areas will need to identify SLP graduates from our graduate programs, and it will give districts the opportunity to find and grow their own SLPs," Allender said.

2. Providing financial incentives to SLPs.

OMNIE will provide a one-time $4,000 sign-on bonus to 17 SLPs who accept employment in districts that have been identified as "hard-to-staff." In addition, up to 31 school districts will offer $12,000 sign-on bonuses contingent upon three years of continued employment in the district. The SLP will receive $2,500 for the first and second years of service and $7,000 for the third year of service.

3. Adding two additional distance learning cohorts.

Up to six universities will admit 30 students for a three-year, part-time program to begin January 2008 and January 2009, with a $12,000 stipend contingent on acceptance of school-based employment for three years.

4. Continuing OMNIE recruitment initiatives.

The challenge is to recruit high school students through OMNIE's "Project Inspire," Barbara Conrad said. "We're seeing our undergraduate programs begin to grow because the work of our SLPs has laid the foundation for recruitment. As a result, there are 40 to 50 SLP students just from my region of the state enrolled in Ohio's universities due to the recruitment efforts of speech-language pathologists in my region promoting our field to their high school students."

5. Reviewing license structure.

The ODE is reviewing the current licensure structure and exploring changes to remove barriers to school employment. Previously, applicants had to complete student teaching to obtain a license to work in the schools. "We're easing up on the requirements for Ohio Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (OBSLPA)-licensed SLPs to obtain ODE licensure," Allender said. "OBSLPA also will develop a special intern license as part of the intern program."

6. Improving working conditions.

Strategies such as capping caseload size, encouraging SLPs to pursue supervisory positions, providing professional development, and reducing paperwork are designed to help staff retention. As part of this initiative, Conrad—along with Kathy Jillson and Anne Slone—is working on guidelines for SLPs that will address issues surrounding eligibility and services to English Language Learners, for example. "SLPs in some districts don't have a supervisor or know where to get an answer. The guidelines on the OMNIE Web site will go a long way in helping interns and other SLPs find the answer, as well as improving job retention by providing support and resources," Conrad said.

7. Recruiting and utilizing speech-language pathology aides.

Ohio licenses this category of school staff, whose scope of practice is limited to providing support services such as filing and paperwork, preparing materials, scheduling activities, and providing assistance during assessments.

8. Creating a telepractice/telesupervision pilot program.

The state is working on a telepractice program, similar to those in operation in Minnesota and North Dakota, to allow students to receive services through telepractice. The pilot program will operate in two districts this year and increase to four districts next year, said Kelly O'Reilly. Telesupervision will be used to supervise SLP interns in remote school districts.

Solving Personnel Shortages: ASHA's Initiatives and Resources

ASHA continues to work with states on personnel shortages under the 2007 Focused Initiative on Personnel Issues in Health Care and Education. Members can access ASHA's online resources to help school-based members recruit and retain qualified SLPs. ASHA also held a Fall Forum on Strategizing Solutions to Personnel Shortages in Speech-Language Pathology. For details on the forum, visit ASHA's Web site.

SLP Task Force Members

Louis Staffilino, task force chair, Ohio Department of Education
Michele Lehman, Ohio Department of Education
Jennifer Kangas, Ohio Department of Education
Sandy Vasu-Sarver, Ohio Department of Education
Deborah Telfer, Ohio Department of Education
Tom Lather, Ohio Department of Education
Nada Allender, Ohio Master's Network Initiatives in Education
Barb Conrad, Ohio Speech-Language Supervisory and Audiology Network
Nancy Creaghead, University of Cincinnati
Jeanne Gokcen, Ohio Speech and Hearing Governmental Affairs Coalition
Kathy Jillson, Ohio School Speech Pathology Educational Audiology Coalition
Sue Grogan-Johnson, Ohio School Speech Pathology Educational Audiology Coalition
Kelly O'Reilly, Governmental Policy Group
David Parsons, Ohio University; Ohio Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
Mike Setty, Ohio Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
Ann Slone, Ohio Speech-Language-Hearing Association


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