Reacting to concerns from upset school superintendents, the State Board of Education's curriculum committee agreed to recommend slowing down on an expensive proposal requiring schools to hire more counselors.

Superintendents, district representatives and school counselors packed the committee meeting room early this morning to make their voices heard. The board is considering a rule that would require one counselor for 350 junior high and high school students. Currently some schools have a 1-to-600 ratio.

Granite School District would have to hire nine counselors to meet the requirement. Counselors in Utah earn an average $60,455 a year, including benefits.

"We know counselors play a very vital role. Our concern is that establishing a ratio like this, without any kind of new funding or a revenue source, will make it very difficult for districts," said Granite district Superintendent Stephen Ronnenkamp. He attended the board's curriculum committee meeting this morning.

Furthermore, the proposed rule states counselors shouldn't be doing clerical work such as administering tests or changing class schedules.

Following emotional discussions regarding who would pay for the additional counselors, the curriculum committee voted unanimously to recommend forming a group to study the issue. The intent is to investigate solutions on how to

move forward with the proposed rule while meeting the needs of the districts.

The counselor proposal committee would comprise Utah State Office of Education staff, superintendents, school counselors, teachers and local school board members.

The state board, as a whole, plans to address the proposed counselor ratio issue later today. Superintendents passed a resolution earlier this week decrying the proposal, calling it an "unfunded mandate."


E-mail: astewart@desnews.com