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Santa Maria School District Adds 11 Counselors to Help Meet Student Needs

Eleven new high school counselors are preparing students for the future this school year.

The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District’s ratio of students-to-counselors has swelled. Righetti has about 2,097 students and four counselors while Santa Maria High’s population of 2,591 contains eight. Pioneer Valley High School has 2,771 students and five counselors. One counselor at Delta High serves about 387 students.

School counselor Eric Blanco said the increased staff at all sites are meeting student needs.

“There is an academic side that deals with graduation, a social aspect that comes into play and of course college and careers," Blanco said from his office at ERHS. “We have more time to focus on all areas and review data to make students successful. We are really the connection for students and parents when it comes to putting them in touch with the services or information they need."

The 18 counselors from all sites also plan to have regular group meetings throughout the year to review data and create goals for student engagement.

The counselors are backed up by a comprehensive plan for student services. In very general terms, the program involves mental health professionals such as psychologists and counselors while the physical health component has nurses, health professionals and crisis counselors. The guidance aspect taps into counselors, career center technicians and outreach consultants. The alternative program involves on-campus suspension, independent study, an alternative learning platform and home school.

The district has contracted services with foster youth liaisons, an A-G (curriculum) consultant from the UC Santa Barbara Admission’s Department, resource officers from the Santa Maria Police and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Departments, a community partnership with Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley for foster youth services, S.A.R.B. (School Attendance Review Board) and with other groups.

For Righetti senior Maria Mendoza, school counselors are a “critical” part of her education.

“Not only do they want you to be successful educationally, they really care about us and want to get to know us," Mendoza said. “My parents did not receive a higher education, so there is a communication barrier there. The counselors are a perfect fit for that."

LCFF coordinator Steve Molina said the state’s new accounting system of local school funds, which is known as the Local Control Funding Formula, is helping the district put educators in the right places.

“The new state funding has allowed us to expand services and we are very excited about that," Molina said.

The school counselors are funded through LCFF. SMHS uses QEIA (Quality Education Investment Act) funds.

— Kenny Klein is a media affairs coordinator for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.

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