To educate the whole student — emotionally and academically — a total support staff is needed.
A support staff that includes teachers, administrators, parents and counselors is crucial. The Sierra Sands Unified School District is demonstrating its commitment to that principle of teaching to the whole student by its expansion of counselors available at the elementary school level.
“We always look at the whole child,” Laura Hickle, special projects coordinator for the district said by phone Wednesday. She added that as a former principal she understands the need for a “total support staff.”
The Sierra Sands Unified School District has won a competitive grant from the Federal Elementary School Counseling Grant Program. She said that while other districts have seen the decline of various programs because of budget cuts from the state and federal levels, Sierra Sands has been able to maintain and, in this case, expand a program.
The grant totals $600,000 over three years. The grant money includes salary expenses as well as travel, supplies and administrative program support, according to the board agenda.
Hickle explained the money would go toward hiring two full-time counselors, one for Richmond and one for Fuller. It will also allow for increased services at Gateway, Inyokern, Las Flores and Pierce elementary schools.
Currently, there are two counselors available for each elementary school in the district, Hickle told the Sierra Sands Board of Education at its meeting Thursday. The grant money will allow the two counselors to concentrate on two schools each, instead of three each. One counselor will be available for Pierce and Gateway and one for Las Flores and Inyokern.
The district applied for the grant in May 2012 but was not awarded the grant for the 2012-13 school year. On Aug. 8, the district received word it had been awarded the grant for 2013-14. Sierra Sands was one of 35 districts awarded the grant.
The grants are not without their obligations. Hickle explained that as part of the grant, the school will be looking at the effect the counselors have on students.
“Our intent is to be able to precisely answer the question, 'How are students different because of the work our school counselors do?'” as stated in the abstract for the grant provided by Hickle.
“Areas of focus include those affecting most schools: defiance, disruptive, aggressive and bullying behaviors,” stated in the abstract, “Focus area will also be on the shy/reticent student, the unmotivated and low self-efficacy in general. Delivery of services is through classroom-based lessons, small-group sessions and individual services for more intense intervention.”
The abstract continues stating that monitoring and other data will allow the program to be proactive to situations and deliver services.
Page 2 of 2 - The grant was competitive, meaning an applicant can earn extra points toward being awarded.
Sierra Sands received extra points because Fuller and Richmond have concentrations of families of military personnel. The counselors at Faller and Richmond will coordinate services with the Fleet and Family Services Center on the base, “in order to provide services and activities to meet the needs of dependents of active and reserve military personnel, this specific grant wanted to make that a competitive priority area.”
Hickle was asked by the board if the counselors would be bound to Richmond and Fuller or would be able to roam to other schools. Hickle replied that there are plans for catastrophic and traumatic situations in which all the counselors can convene.
Hickle said the district has already began advertising for new counselors with positive response. Other details are still being worked out, but the money should be available to the school soon.