PHOENIX — The Arizona State Board of Education approved a plan Monday morning that would allocate additional funding for counselors, social workers and police officers in Arizona schools.
"I think this was the result of a lot of advocacy from the community and associations working with the Governor's Office, the Department of Education and many others who worked on this for months," said Callie Kozlak, an associate superintendent with the Arizona Department of Education.
Christa Mussi, a school counselor at Dobson High School in Mesa, said consistency is key in making sure students don't fall through the cracks.
"Every senior we work to see within two weeks of school, and again we have a system so that nobody gets missed," says Mussi.
Mussi says time management and staying focused are necessary when counselors interact with hundreds of students.
"I think it can be a lot...yeah, if you have an extreme caseload it can be challenging," she added.
Mussi's caseload is 450 students, about half of the statewide average of
more than 900 students per counselor.
"When we think about school safety and school health, we also need to think about having additional resources for students that help look holistically at a child's needs and school community needs," Kozlak said.
Anna Cicero is with the Arizona School Counselors Association. She sat at Monday's public meeting, hoping the board would vote yes. The 11-member panel voted unanimously to allocate $20 million immediately. Schools will be able to apply for funding starting September 17th and will have until September 28th.
"We hope with this new funding things will begin to change," Cicero said.
Cicero believes that when the ratio of students to counselors is too high, it's hard for them to establish and develop the necessary relationships and trust. She believes the new funding will help with Arizona's current standing 'at the bottom of the barrel.'
"I think the impact of this grant is going to be primarily in districts that don't have SROs, don't have school counselors: the rural areas," Cicero added.
State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman says aside from hiring these professionals, the grant allows for teacher training on suicide prevention.
"We did it! We're thrilled that we got this through today because, as I've been saying, our schools desperately need these additional supports for school safety. Especially school counselors and social workers, which we know are critical for student success," said Hoffman.