Counseling grant to benefit Pawhuska schools

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Assistant Superintendent Beverly Moore said Pawhuska Public Schools will benefit from grant funding that the Oklahoma State Department of Education has awarded based on an application by the Osage County Interlocal Cooperative, headquartered in Hominy.

Pawhuska Public Schools is to be one of six area public school districts that will be able to increase the availability of counseling services for its students because of the $522,000 Oklahoma School Counselor Corps grant. Overall, the state is awarding $35.7 million in grants, financed with federal government relief money, to benefit 181 school districts.

The six schools or school districts receiving counseling grant funds through the Osage County Interlocal Cooperative will be Pawhuska, Wynona, Shidler, Osage Hills, South Coffeyville and Anderson.

Pawhuska Public Schools, which had an end-of-year enrollment of 695 students for the 2020-21 academic year, already had one counselor at the secondary school level. Moore said she anticipates the grant will allow the district to hire an elementary school counselor and a pre-K through 12 social worker. The grant is for three years.

Moore said Pawhuska Public Schools has been facing an increased need for counseling services in the following areas: career and college readiness, resources for families, mental health, and academic challenges.

Moore represents PPS on the board of the Interlocal Cooperative. OCIC also provides services to the Bowring, Caney Valley, Frontier, Hominy, McCord, Newkirk, and Woodland school systems.

"We diligently strive to expediently meet the needs of our member districts' staff and students," Dr. Jacque Canady, executive director of the Osage County Interlocal Cooperative, said of the grant. "Often those needs vary from district to district and from year to year."

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister commented in a news release on the need for the grant funding.

“Schools have wrestled with inadequate numbers of counselors and mental health professionals for far too long,” Hofmeister said. “Oklahoma children suffer from a higher rate of trauma than children in most other states, and the pandemic has only exacerbated such adversity. These grants can bring transformational change to schools, some of which have not had a single school counselor. With academic success dependent on student well-being, this marks a critical investment for our students.”

Oklahoma’s current student-to-school counselor ratio is 411-to-1, but the American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250-to-1, according to the state Department of Education.

Districts applied for Oklahoma School Counselor Corps grants to fund approximately 50% of the cost of the salary and benefits of qualified positions, the state Department of Education said. In their applications, districts were able to specify exact needs for school counselors, licensed school-based mental health professionals, social workers, and recreational therapists.