Social emotional counseling is an area of great need in our community. Recently, the Pajaronian published an article regarding counseling services available to students in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. While the article touched on key components, it did miss an opportunity to depict the many positive elements that encompass the district’s services to its most fragile students. As Board Trustees, it is important for us to provide our constituents and your readers with a more holistic overview of the counseling services offered and the challenges we face.
When the state began to move out of the recession, the School Board went directly to the community to ask about spending priorities as part of the District’s fund allocation process. Social Emotional Counselors was at the top of the Board’s and the community’s list. Therefore, we funded more positions in this area than the district has ever had. It is indisputable that we need more counselors, and as we identify more funds, we hope to improve these services, while balancing the need to address other critical issues such as deferred maintenance, teacher salaries, transportation costs, and increasing benefit costs, amongst others.
Currently, there are 50 counselors providing services and the current ratios are 1:600 at middle schools and 1:400 at high schools. These numbers can increase as stress factors in our environment increase, such as the immigration raids we have experienced recently in our community. PVUSD Board President Leslie DeRose worked closely with Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez in developing a plan to offer staff and family training on how to address contact from immigration officials to ensure the protection of student and family rights. In partnership with the Community Action Board and Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance (PVPSA), we are delivering these services with the help of a grant from the Packard Foundation.
In addition, PVPSA and the school district, longtime partners in mental health services for families, provide direct support to any student referred for suspension or expulsion. This partnership also allows the District to have a Kids Korner program at each elementary school to provide counseling services to our youngest students who may need additional emotional support. The current preventative services offered by our District and PVPSA are fundamental in keeping students safe and learning in our classrooms. In the last several years, this partnership has led to a more than 50 percent decrease in expulsions.
It is unquestionable that our children need and deserve the best services to support their success. PVUSD strives to ensure every student’s needs are met as we continue to work with our community partners and explore new funding opportunities.
Leslie DeRose is the president of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, Maria Orozco is the vice president, and Kimberly De Serpa is a trustee. Their opinions are their own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.