With only three school board members present, the Payson School Board voted 2-1 to support a job description that would make it possible to hire a Rim Country Middle School counselor without a counseling certificate.
Board President Barbara Underwood and Vice President Matt Van Camp voted to support Rim Country Middle School Principal Will Dunman’s job description for a counselor, while board member Kim Pound voted against moving forward.
“My concern is that we’re using a Band-Aid here,” Pound said. “I believe the person should have a counselor’s certificate.”
Dunman created a job description for a counselor that required a bachelor’s degree in a related field, knowledge of positive behavior intervention, understanding of Response to Intervention programs and experience with staff developmental training.
Overall, Dunman hoped the counselor would guide students to develop healthy relationships with their peers and adults in addition to aiding those in trouble with their schoolwork.
He also wants the counselor to have the skills to educate teachers on behavioral and academic intervention to help students who struggle.
The debate centered on the value of having existing relationships with students versus a counselor’s certificate.
School board members, Superintendent Ron Hitchcock and Dunman felt hiring from within the district would capitalize on relationships already built. They valued the connections an in-district hire would bring to the table, compared to the value of a counseling certificate.
Underwood illustrated her point with observations she made while volunteering in the high school counseling department. She noticed that when students grapple with a personal issue, they prefer to speak with Jennifer White, because she taught English and coached at PHS last year.
“If you have people who already have a relationship with kids, you’re a step ahead,” Underwood said.
Pound feared lowering the standards from the previous job description would only result in watering down the capacity of the job, which would ultimately do a disservice to the students.
“This is a critical time in these students’ lives,” he said. “If we’re going to do this, we should do it right.”
Since White sat in the audience to present on another topic at the meeting, Pound turned to her and asked what she felt about removing the counseling certificate requirement from the job description.
“If there is a person (in district) who has experience working with the kids, the relationship with the kids is more important,” White said. “For me, it would not be a deal breaker.”
White has a bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis on English and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on counseling. She has both teaching and counseling certifications, but the requirements for the high school counseling department are much more specific than those at the middle school.
Another benefit of hiring a non-certified staff member had to do with budget concerns.
Kathie Manning, business manager for the district, told the board that classified staff have a pay range of approximately $25,000 to $45,000.
The certified salary schedule ranges from $32,000 to $64,000, depending on experience and education.
The district wasted no time in posting the job position internally.
“I was looking at this budgetwise to try to be creative to meet the needs at school,” Dunman said. “What can we do to service the kids?”
Lorraine Bright, who handles human resources at the district office, confirmed that the posting for the counselor position went up on Tuesday morning of last week and closed on Friday, Aug. 31.