Counselors educate school board about their function in district

The Jan. 22 Barnwell 45 school board meeting was a different opportunity for learning.

This time, the school board members were the pupils.

Guidance counselors from three of the district's four schools appeared before the board to give an overview tutorial of what their programs and job positions entail.

"Since they are the board of the district, I thought it would be good that they (the counselors) educate them about it," said Roy Sapough, the district superintendent.

Sapough said he may have other faculty or staff appear at future board meetings to give informational reports to the board about their particular duties or departments.

"School counselors are one of the most misconceived duties in the district," said Angel Brabham, the guidance counselor for Barnwell Primary School.

As a counselor for elementary students, Brabham handles the evaluation and placement of students in various classes, particularly those needing special services for learning difficulties, like children with attention deficit disorder. Brabham also places the talented and gifted students.

Brabham also confers with the S.C. Department of Social Services concerning children, particularly if there are issues or concerns at a child's home, she said.

"It's amazing some students get to school, much less sit and function at school," Brabham said. "At their age at Barnwell Primary School, students don't verbalize their needs - their act them out."

Brabham also helps with discipline referrals and the school's mentoring program, she said.

"We have implemented a mentoring program. We started with four mentors and now we are up to 40 mentors," Brabham said. "Children without positive adult interaction will not succeed."

The mentors, while volunteers, do receive some training from the Axis 1 Center of Barnwell beforehand, she said.

"A lot of times we don't know what the child is dealing with. Some children just need some one to talk to," Brabham said.

Despite the growth of mentors at the school, more are needed, she said.

"One of the biggest things we need is male mentors. We especially need black male mentors. It's sad but many children don't have male role models in the household," Brabham said.

Out of the more than 900 students at the primary school, Brabham is the only guidance counselor for them.

School board member Jeff Still questioned that ratio.

Still asked if the state standards required no more than 500 students for every one counselor.

The recommended ratio of students to counselors is 250 to one, Brabham said.

All the other schools have only one guidance counselor except Barnwell High School which has three counselors. The high school will give its guidance program presentation at a later board meeting.

Nancy Burbage is the guidance counselor at Barnwell Elementary School and handles about 570 students.

Besides student placements, Burbage also handles standardized testing, coordinates Red Ribbon Week activities and holds the individual education plan (EIP) meetings with students and their parents.

Even at their age, Burbage starts getting children thinking about the future and possible career paths through career awareness talks, she said.

Sherry Cooler is the guidance counselor at Guinyard-Butler Middle School for its about 400 students.

One of the biggest tasks Cooler has is setting up a student's individual graduation plan (IGP), which is like a curriculum road map a student will need to follow to graduation high school. A middle school student's IGP goes with them into high school, Cooler said.

Other duties Cooler has include talking with parents about test scores and screening children for attention deficit disorders, she said.