Jim Matthews Ed.S., M.A., BCBA ABC Unified School District Exemplary Early Career School Psychologist

Where do you work?

I am currently employed by ABC Unified School District in Southern California. I work as a behavioral school psychologist for the district's Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) department. As such, I am "assigned" to 29 different schools throughout the district and provide intensive social, emotional, and behavioral support services to students ages 3 to 22. The district in which I work is representative of Southern California, composed of a wide range of races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. I am in charge of the districts behavior support program where I supervise paraeducators and lead numerous trainings for paraeducators and other school staff. I also consult with teachers and district administration on some of the most challenging and high profile cases in the district. I serve on a number of district-level committees including the District Crisis Team, the District PBIS team, and the district Suicide Assessment Team. I am one of three lead district trainers in suicide prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. In February 2014, I received Certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). I am also the founder and president of my own behavioral service agency where I lead a team of behavior interventionists in the home environment providing ABA to students with Autism and other developmental disabilities.

What would you consider to be your area of expertise at this point in your career?

A professor of mine once said that you have to spend 10,000 hours doing something before you can truly be called an expert. That being said, I feel strongest in the area of behavior support and in forming relationships with school teams to ensure effective behavioral support programs for our students. Describe something that has surprised you about your career so far. It came as a surprise to me how challenging it can be to meet the demands of multiple stakeholders while still remaining focused on individual student needs. School Psychologists are like "middle management." We occupy the often complicated space between teachers in the classroom and principals and administrators in the central district office. We have to remain focused on the needs of individual students while simultaneously meeting a variety of demands from a variety of people.

What challenges have you faced in your early career and how have you handled them?

The biggest challenge in my role as a school psychologist has been creating consensus among multiple stakeholders. Honest people honestly representing their different perspectives will often disagree. My role as a school psychologist often requires me to use my consultation skills in order to find a common ground and get all stakeholders on the same page. To do this, I have had to hone my empathetic listening abilities and negotiation skills. This has proven very successful in helping me establish myself as a respected member of school teams and district teams.