We Are L.A. Unified

When she was a school psychologist with L.A. Unified, Susan Mora would see as many as seven kids per day. Her psyche improved with each success. 

“You feel immediate progress when you connect with a student,” she said.  

Since assuming a new position with the District in November, she no longer works with students on an individual level, or as a supervisor of psychologists.  Instead, she works with schools to strengthen and create environments that support the emotional and behavioral needs of all students in the general education setting. Success is slower to see. 

“There is a lot of work to be done,” noted Susan, who is a Psychological Services Intervention Coordinator – one each in the four Educational Service Centers that divide the District, plus one assigned to Intensive Support and Intervention Center schools. “We define success as a kid being in school, ready to learn.”

Her new role holds significance for the entire District. According to Susan, the District created the position to address a paradox within recent enrollment figures. While the student population has declined, the number of special education students has grown. A percentage of these students, given the proper support, could remain in or be reclassified as general education. This may include even students labeled as autistic, or with Attention Deficit Disorder.

“It’s possible to get them (students) out of special education, and to create systems where there are other options,” said Susan. “Schools sometimes don’t have access to those options.”

Susan, who has been with L.A. Unified since 1988, has worked with students of all ages, who had various behavioral and emotional issues. Traveling from school to school, Susan always kept in mind that principals, overburdened with the daily challenges of running an L.A. Unified school, may be unaware of how to assist students identified with social and emotional problems.

But Susan also believes that programs alone can’t cope with the psychological needs of students, especially in the nation’s second-largest school district. “In reading, math, and science, we’re looking for opportunities to teach problem-solving, cooperative learning,” said Susan. “When we address social and emotional issues as part of the overall curriculum, kids do better.” 

--Thomas Waldman

To nominate a teacher, student, employee or volunteer, send an email to Thomas.Waldman@lausd.net, or call 213-241-6766.

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