The academic and emotional needs of students in the Murray School District are not being met because of a lack of counselors in elementary and secondary schools, a group of parents says.
The group, represented by Hillcrest Junior High School PTSA President Mary Ann Kirk, has asked Murray District Board of Education members to hire additional counselors to provide psychological and educational planning services for the district's more than 6,000 students.Kirk said Hillcrest Junior High has only one counselor to serve about 750 students. This counselor, she said, has time only for "crisis intervention" sessions with troubled students.
"Some kids never receive career guidance counseling," Kirk said. "If you don't have an emotional problem, you don't get anything . . . I think the situation is a real tragedy."
Board member Sherry Madsen, who represents the patrons of the southeast area where Hillcrest Junior High is located, agreed, saying teachers should not have to do emotional and career guidance counseling.
"They (teachers) are overburdened accomplishing their regular tasks, let alone filling in for career guidance counseling. Counseling emotionally troubled or career-disoriented students isn't in their job description. We appreciate what the teachers are doing to ease the load, but it's an additional activity that counselors should cover," Madsen said.
Madsen said the board has been considering ways to solve the problem, but only limited funds are available. Madsen said the board believes the elementary schools need counselors to help youngsters with emotional problems.
"We're trying to solve a little bit of the problem with the little money we have," she said.
The district currently offers some counseling services, but parents and district officials say these services are dismal.
The board will ask voters during the Nov. 6 general election to approve or reject a proposal to raise property taxes by two mills. If voters approve, funds generated from the proposal, estimated at $360,000, will be used to hire additional counselors at the elementary and secondary levels, reduce class sizes and maintain competitive salary schedules, district officials said.
Kirk said although Murray High School, the only high school in the district, seems to be operating well with four counselors for approximately 1,300 students, the group believes additional counselors could help students who are considering dropping out of school or have no educational goals after graduation.
Kirk asked the board to:
- Create a special task force to develop a plan to provide counseling services for the district's students.
- Re-evaluate the district's counseling policy and the formal Student Education Plan, or SEP. The SEP is a meeting held once a year between the student, counselor and parent, at the secondary level only.
- Hire additional aides at the secondary level to help with clerical work.
- Hire counselors at the elementary level.
- Create crisis-intervention teams at each school.
"We are not, nor should we try to be a long-term therapeutic institution," she said.
The situation at Hillcrest Junior High is so critical, she said, that a committee of parents will help about 250 eighth grade students develop four-year educational plans this semester.