Friday, February 22, 2013

Low counselor-to-student ratio impacting students, district official says

The Lee County School District ranks near the bottom of Florida districts in its ratio of students to counselors.

Each counselor serves about 692 students, putting Lee County 64th out of 67 districts, said Lori Brooks, the district’s coordinator of school counseling services. The number is also far above the American School Counselor Association-recommended ratio of one counselor per 250 students.

Brooks said the district takes a “drive-by” approach to counseling.

“We kind of hit or miss,” she said. “And it’s really impacting our students.”

Speaking to school board members during a Tuesday afternoon presentation on student services, Brooks said more counselors could increase the overall health and wellbeing of students, and impact their achievement levels and school grades. Counselors can help students before they hit “crisis mode,” she said.

But there are inadequate numbers in Lee schools, Brooks said, pointing out that the district has fewer counselors per student than other Florida districts of comparable size. Brevard County has one counselor per 389 students, while Polk County has one per 468 students. Six Lee County elementary schools do not have counselors assigned to them, she said.

“I think we’re at a tipping point with everything that’s been going on in society,” Brooks said.

Tuesday’s presentation was for informational purposes only and the board did not take any action on it. But chairwoman Mary Fischer, a former school counselor, said board members should to take the presentation to heart and ensure the district is providing enough support to students and not just academically.

“If we don’t do something differently and if we don’t take a stand and prioritize issues and put our money into prevention, we’re not going to be able to accomplish our main goals,” she said.

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