Federal education grant to add counselors to elementary schools for the first time
Congressman Brian Higgins was joined by North Tonawanda City School Superintendent Gregory Woytila and District Director of Student Services Ron Barstys to announce a federal grant totaling $1,171,650. The district will receive $390,550 each year over a three-year period.
The grant funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Education's Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program.
"Education opens up doors of opportunity for our children, but many struggle with outside factors that provide obstacles to success," said Higgins said. "This grant will support early intervention to younger students in need of supportive services, to give children and families the tools and reinforcement to rise above challenges and find success in education and life in the years ahead."
Woytila said, "I am thrilled to be receiving this type of funding that allows us to increase services that will directly assist the students and families that need the most support. Over the years, we have done more with less, but something always gets left off the table. Helping children become mentally ready for school and learn how to regulate their thoughts and feelings in a productive way will make a lasting difference for the students and the community in which they live. This grant is the boost we needed to ensure the North Tonawanda City School District, and the community it serves, takes proactive steps to improve academic and social skills for the students who attend our schools."
The federal grant will allow North Tonawanda City Schools to hire four additional school counselors and add a school psychologist. Currently, none of the district school counselors are permanently assigned to an elementary building. The funding will provide for one full-time counselor assigned to Meadow, Ohio and Spruce schools, the district's three largest elementary buildings. The fourth counselor will work at both Drake Elementary and supplement the services at the middle school.
The goal of this initiative is to increase the capacity of the district to respond to the socioeconomic, emotional and mental health needs of its elementary and middle school students. Under the program, North Tonawanda schools also will expand their existing collaboration with Child and Adolescent Treatment Services, which currently provides additional counseling and support at the high school level. Teachers also will receive professional development training to better prepare those closest to the students to recognize signs of mental health concerns and refer students to counseling staff for follow-up services.
The added counselors will reduce the student to counselor ratio by more than 200 children, from 571:1 to 358:1.
School counselors provide a wide range of services to students and families from career and college prep to help with inter-personal skills and crisis management.
The U.S. Department of Education's Elementary & Secondary School Counseling Programs provides grants on a competitive basis to districts that demonstrate need and propose the most promising and innovated approaches to expanding counseling services.