METUCHEN — The Metuchen Board of Education will consider employing two full-time guidance counselors at Campbell Elementary School as board members analyze the district’s personnel budget.
Currently, the Campbell school has one part-time guidance counselor. Parents addressed the board at a Feb. 27 meeting and discussed what they said is a need for full-time counselors.
“We are asking for our kids [in order] for them to be able to focus in their workplace, which is the school, by properly staffing Campbell with two full-time guidance counselors,” Nadiah Cheatham said. “As a community, we are tired of hearing about all the bullying reports and as a district you can’t want to fight lawsuits.”
Cheatham said administrators need to foster inclusion and allow students to talk through their problems.
“We are better than this, but to get to where we want to be it takes time and resources, both of which start with the board,” she said. “We need to look at the whole child, the education and emotional part of it. Otherwise we are wasting our time because education is just one part of it. We want to raise good individuals, not just smart ones.”
Jen Messina, who had a friend share her thoughts with the board as a result of her emotions, said being a child is hard enough and adding the turmoil of what the world has to offer makes it even more complex.
“The kids need support to understand social, emotional and behavioral situations and support on how to handle these situations and building on coping with these skills,” she said. “Poor emotional and social skills are a barrier to effective learning.”
Messina said proactive programming and a support system for teachers are needed to prevent tragedies.
Board President Dan Benderly said board members would discuss personnel matters on March 13.
“Certainly, [full-time guidance counselors] are a consideration in these times,” Benderly said.
In a letter to parents and guardians following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which a 19-year-old male is accused of shooting 14 people to death on Feb. 14, Superintendent of Schools Vincent Caputo and Benderly said in these times, the district reconfirms the safety of students is paramount.
“Security is only one part of the challenge facing us,” Caputo and Benderly wrote. “Another is to raise our children to be resilient in our modern world and to support their emotional development.”
One of the district’s goals this year is the integration of social emotional learning competencies into curriculum, instruction and daily activities.