School counselors added to 50J staff

By Pat Sunderland


After years of budget cuts resulting in staff reductions, Delta County Joint School District #50 is excited to be adding school counselors at every middle and high school in the district. The new hires are being funded through a School Counselor Corps Grant Program.

Only two schools currently have counselors -- Delta High School has two, and the Delta Opportunity School has an administrator who spends about half her time counseling students.

At other middle and high schools in the school district, school administrators have taken on counseling responsibilities.

Connie Vincent, the district's instructional coordinator, said 7.5 new counselors are being hired for each middle/high school for the 2016-17 school year. A third counselor will join the staff at Delta High School, and the .5 funding will expand the halftime position at Delta Opportunity School to full time.

Pending legislative appropriation, the school district is slated to receive $80,000 per year per school, for a total of $640,000, to cover the cost of salaries, benefits, programs and training. The grant is for three years.

Vincent explained counselors focus their efforts on three areas -- college and career readiness, academics (help with study skills, ACT/SAT prep and more), and students' social/emotional needs.

The school district is wrapping up the planning phase of the program, which involved a survey of students, parents and staff. In most schools, postsecondary readiness was identified as the number one need, but some middle schools put social/emotional needs as a higher priority.

"We're so excited not just to hire people, but to put in programs and intervention strategies that will result in real change for our schools and our students," Vincent said. The grant program holds counselors to widely held national standards. The ultimate goal is to decrease the number of students who drop out and increase the number of students who graduate through timely monitoring, evaluation and intervention.

"Our challenge is sustaining the grants," superintendent Caryn Gibson noted at a recent school board meeting. Delta County Joint School District #50 is the recipient of state and federal grants totaling nearly $3.7 million. The grants target English language learners, gifted/talented students, special needs students, reading proficiency, and early literacy programs. A variety of programs at Delta Family Center are funded by the Colorado Health Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, Daniels Fund, Temple Hoyne Buell, Energy Outreach Colorado, Cocker Kids' Foundation and others. A Colorado Health Foundation grant that funded the startup of A kidZ Clinic was recently extended. Libraries, technology, professional development, migrant health and the allied health program at Delta High School have also benefited from grant funds.