61ºF

'Give it to the school counselor': Counselors seeking change of pressure

New bill will help boost recruitment of school counselors, make adjustments

SAN ANTONIO – High school counselor Kathy Stringfellow has helped students through difficult times.

"I’ve been there at that same school for nine years. The whole time I’ve been a school counselor, I’ve had five different deaths I’ve dealt with of students," Stringfellow said.

Stringfellow said in the world we live in today, she has to be ready for any crisis situation that unfolds.

"Luckily, we haven’t had at our school, someone come in and try to shoot or something like that. But we still plan for it, unfortunately," Stringfellow said.

Stringfellow works at Pewitt CISD in a small Northeast Texas city called Omaha.

"I do all services and all special programs. I do a little bit of everything. Because in the school, there’s not that much personal and I have to take a lot of slack," Stringfellow said.

RELATED: SA schools aren't meeting recommendations for student to counselor ratios

The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of one counselor to 250 students and the Texas Counseling Association's recommends a ratio of one counselor for every 350 students.

Pewitt Consolidated Independent School District:

  • Pewitt Elementary School - 449 students to one counselor 
  • Pewitt Junior High School - 191 students to one counselor 
  • Pewitt High School - 236 students to one counselor

"One of my concerns is when we lose a counselor, is it going to be me that I’m going to take on two campuses?" Stringfellow said.

President of the Texas School Counseling Association Dr. Lesley Casarez said there’s more pressure on school counselors as the years have gone on.

"It seems like everyone just says give it to the school counselor. When there’s a new initiative or there is new things that come up, the school counselors the first one they look at," Stringfellow said.

School counselors are not staying quiet.

SCROLL DOWN TO VIEW YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL RATIO

Some are making their voices heard at the capitol including Sharon Bey, a counseling coordinator in the Houston area.

"School counselors strongly believe if they are able to spend their time teaching social-emotional skills to students starting in pre-K rather than doing testing, lunch duty, and other clerical work, then we will see a marketed decrease in school violence in the years to come," Bey said.

Bey recently testified in front of the Senate committee on education to support a bill that aims to boost recruitment of school counselors.

"Senate Bill 11 recreates a loan repayment program for school counselors working in Title 1 schools or in communities designated as mental health workforce shortage areas," Bey said.

Senate Bill 426 would require that school counselors spend a majority of their time on counseling duties.

"If that passed, it would make a world of difference in them actually being able to spend time on what they should be spending time on," Casarez said.

Senate Bill 11 was heard in the committee a few weeks ago. It has not been scheduled for a vote in the Education Committee yet. Senate Bill 426 is also awaiting a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

"When we have a crisis, we are the crisis team. We have to figure out how to provide for our faculty and our students and the community and we do it all," Stringfellow said.


About the Authors: