Local News

Friday, Feb 08 2013 10:00 PM

Guidance counselor ranks shrinking

BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

It's National School Counselor Week, and the Kern High School District Counselors Association is using the occasion to call attention to a trend it believes is disturbing.

There are 84 guidance counselors in KHSD, 25 percent fewer than there were five years ago, according to the association.

Over that five-year period, the district has added three schools but has 17 fewer counselors, said association President Joanne Barrick.

KHSD's counselor-to-student ratio is "way over" the American School Counselors Association recommendation of 250-to-one, she added. In Kern, it's 440-to-one.

With state funding precarious and the district continuing to grow, counselors are worried that "they may not be able to keep up the pace and stay focused on the reason they entered this profession, to be the students' advocate," Barrick said.

She added that although counselors aren't trained therapists, they're often the first to notice when a child is troubled, depressed or suicidal, and counselors frequently make critical referrals.

In an era of mass shootings at schools across the nation, it's not a good idea to decrease the ranks of those who "play triage for kids," Barrick said.

At a school board meeting Monday, a proclamation recognizing National School Counselor Week was read, but neither staff nor trustees addressed Barrick's concerns after she brought them to the board publicly.

In an interview Friday, board President Bryan Batey said the shrinking pool of counselors is a necessary byproduct of drastic cuts to education funding from the state that trustees have no control over.

"As a board we've made a substantial effort to keep those cuts as far away from the classroom as possible," he said. "It effects teachers, custodians, transportation, counselors, everything."

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