Each school in Pitt County has one or more school counselors. They are a valuable piece of the educational puzzle for our students. If you’ve never used a counselor, or only utilized their service in a specific way, you may not be aware of all that they do. We took a few minutes to chat with Karen Harrington, Director of Student Services for Pitt County Schools, to learn more about the role school counselors play in Pitt County Schools.
PPS-PC: How many counselors does PCS have, and how are they distributed among the schools?
KH: We have 69 counselors in PCS across our 38 schools, alternative program, and health science academy. Depending on the size of the student body our K-8 schools typically have one or two counselors and high schools have 3-5 counselors each. For the past several years PCS has requested additional funding from the county commissioners to support additional positions to put the schools closer to the recommended American School Counselor Association (ASCA) guidelines of 1 counselor per 250 students. As funding is increased we will place additional counselors in schools based on student:counselor ratio and the unique needs of our schools.
PPS-PC: It seems that counselor roles and responsibilities would vary between elementary, middle, and high school. Tell us what some of those various roles and responsibilities might include.
KH: NC Professional School Counselor Standards best practices ask that counselors spend 80% of their time in direct service to students (individual and group counseling, academic advisement, consultations with students, staff, and families, and 20% in planning, needs assessment, evaluation and professional development for the comprehensive school counseling program, and other duties. Counselors of all grade spans are engaged in these activities. At the elementary level counselors may conduct classroom lessons more frequently to support students in social skills. As students move into middle school counselors help students prepare for high school course selection in addition to the roles previously mentioned. High school counselors assist students in monitoring course selection and progression towards graduation as well as post-secondary career or educational goals.
PPS-PC: Who are some other community partners counselors utilize when the needs of a student fall outside of the counselor’s roles?
KH: School counselors work with teachers, administrators, and family members to support students. In addition, they are often the point of contact for other student services staff (school social workers, school nurses, and school psychologists) and outside agencies that may support the student. This may involve referring students and families to necessary resources in the community or developing medical and/or academic support plans. While our counselors provide counseling there are times when a student’s needs are more significant. In these cases school counselors can serve as a connection to therapy services in the community or through school based mental health services. These services are provided at the discretion and with permission of parents.
PPS-PC: What is the best way for a family to connect with a school counselor, and when should they do so?
KH: A school counselor can be a valuable support at school for any student. Counselors are not just a support for students with academic or behavioral difficulties. Counselors help students develop leadership skills, establish friendships, and provide academic guidance. Take time to get to know who your child’s counselor is and help your student make a connection with them. In addition to supporting your child they are a helpful resource for parents when you have questions about child development, curriculum, or resources within the school and community. Make a connection early this school year and ask your counselor to share about their school counseling program. Counselor names and contact information can be found in the staff portion of each school website.