Editorial: Schools need their librarians and counselors

It is hard to imagine that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education were planning to implement a new law

to allow schools to find alternatives to having professional librarians and counselors, but they were.

Fortunately there was such an uproar from both groups that BESE has now reversed that decision and professional school

librarians and counselors will continue to be available to students.

Both state Superintendent of Education John White, who initially pushed the changes, and Chas Roemer, president of BESE,

and a key backer of the overhaul, later endorsed the reversal at a recent meeting..

Under the planned guidelines, which BESE approved earlier this year, public schools could get around staffing requirements

for counselors and librarians if they found other approved ways to do so.

But the change sparked outrage among both groups.

Hundreds of critics filed written comments on the plans, which forced BESE to take another look at the policy.

White, Roemer and others had hoped that tweaks to the planned changes would pave the way for final approval.

But instead, counselors and librarians took turns criticizing the new rules, usually to rousing cheers from colleagues

in a state auditorium.

Current rules, which will remain in effect, require one high school counselor for every 450 students.

The proposed changes would have allowed schools to get around that mandate if they were “capable of providing academic

guidance, postsecondary counseling and personal developmental support through alternate means.”

In addition, staffing ratios for librarians would be waived for “schools capable of providing resources and assistance

to students through an alternate structure.”

But counselors said only they have the needed credentials, experience and one-on-one relationships with students.

They also said that turning over the job to even well-meaning noncounselors would be dangerous.

“No one can replace the school counselor,” said Cathy Smith, recent president of the Louisiana School Counselors

Association and a counselor herself at Jennings High School.

Counselors are supposed to assist students on course selections, graduation requirements, career and college options,

test interpretations and personal problems.

Jennifer Curry,

president-elect of the Louisiana School Counselors Association, said

just a single area where counselors

are responsible includes parental workshops, curriculum,

graduation plans and homework skills, among other duties.

Curry said schools cannot simply employ “alternative people” to do the work.

Walter Lee, a BESE member who lives in Mansfield, sparked the push to leave rules governing counselors and librarians

the way they were before BESE approved the changes earlier this year.

Thank goodness the BESE board members finally listened to those professionals. Every student deserves to have the

educational benefit of a fully accredited librarian and counselor. Short-changing students should never be a consideration

when making staffing changes.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.