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Where are the counselors?

Students take part in a lesson at Rio Rancho Cyber Academy. The executive director for student services at RRPS has suggested to the board that the district’s schools need more counselors

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Tonna Burgos, Rio Rancho Public Schools executive director for student services, recently suggested to the school board the need for more counselors in schools.

A former teacher, assistant principal and principal, she’s been an administrator with RRPS since December 2005.

“I think that counselors have always been needed,” she said. “I think one of the things that occurred, at least for RRPS, in the state of New Mexico, is that counselors are not funded – it’s not as if the state set aside an amount of money for you to hire counselors. Districts have to choose to use their operational funds to support those counselors.”

School counselors must have a bachelor’s and master’s in counseling; the master’s must include a practicum on a campus and an internship. Plus, they need to attend monthly meetings and keep up with continuing education.

Cleveland and Rio Rancho high schools each have eight counselors, Burgos said, a ratio of about one counselor for every 312 students, although each grade level isn’t equal.

“Now, granted they have 2,500 students, but there’s two at each grade level – they loop all four years with their (same) students,” Burgos said. “And when they graduate with them in their senior year, they go back down to the freshman class.”

That seems to be successful.

“We attribute that to our graduation rate – having one of the highest in the state – because our counselors are building relationships with their students and their families, and they’re getting to know the students over four years,” she said.

“And then, when you look at middle school, which is a pretty volatile time, you have them coming out of elementary school, and they’re in sixth, seventh and eighth grade – and sixth-grade (students) are still sort of elementary – and they’re moving up to eighth grade and becoming young adults, and trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be.”

So, the middle schools have to have three counselors, she said.

Burgos said the American School Counselors Association’s recommendation, based on research, is one counselor to 250 students. In other words, CHS and RRHS should each have two more counselors.

Rio Rancho Middle School has about 1,200 students and three counselors, and Eagle Ridge Middle School has more than 900 students and three counselors. Lincoln Middle School was upgraded to two counselors and has 979 students,

“They love their job,” Burgos said of the counselors.

_PhotoCredit”>HANDOUT PHOTO

Tonna Burgos, Rio Rancho Public Schools executive director.

Examining the need for more counselors in RRPS

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