Principal says Bridges needs counselor

After presenting to the Oxford Board of Education on all she and her employees do to help the students at Oxford Bridges High School trek toward a high school diploma, Bridges principal Aleetha Vanloozen told the board she has just one piece missing: a way to personally engage her students on a regular basis through a counselor.

Bridges, geared toward students at risk of not finishing high school, currently has 54 students enrolled. The staff works with students to make sure they have classes that are engaging and keep them on track to be ready for either college or the work force.

Vanloozen said she is regularly in contact with parents and helps students keep daily planners to make sure they’re able to get everything turned in. The staff also tries to provide students with career readiness field trips and classwork.

When a student needs non-emergency counselling, Vanloozen, a former school social worker, often takes on that responsibility.

“We’re missing that social, emotional piece as far as an individual counselor (or) social worker,” she said. “I am a social worker, and sometimes it’s tricky to be the social worker with other things going on… As a team, my team is great. We provide awesome support for the kids. But, when you need that individual assistance, ( a counselor) would be helpful.”

While Vanloozen stressed to the board that she and her staff don’t allow students to fall through the cracks and utilize Common Ground in Pontiac when needed, she also indicated that a family counselor would be a welcome addition to her staff.

“That family transition position that we have, that counselor-type person we added to the different buildings, did anyone consider adding additional staff to Bridges in that kind of position?” said board Vice President Joyce Brasington. “I know it costs money, but I just wonder if we missed something when that opportunity was there.”

Throughout the meeting, many of the other board members stressed to Superintendent Tim Throne and the members of his cabinet that, while they understand there are needs across the district, they see a special need to add a counselor at Bridges.

“When you’re talking about 45 percent of your 54 students, half of your kids have lost an immediate family member, 44 percent have been diagnosed with a learning issue,” said Trustee Heather Shafer. “To me, if that doesn’t scream that they need a family services counselor, I’m not really sure what else does.”

The board of education will meet again on Dec. 11 at Oxford High School. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m.

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