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HomeEducationNew Program Could Help Recruit, Retain School Counselors, Administrators

New Program Could Help Recruit, Retain School Counselors, Administrators

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The Hernando County School District wants to recruit more potential school counselors and administrators and ensure they stick around.

To that end, at a June 25 workshop, the School Board heard a presentation on a partnership with two different universities designed to create a pipeline for certified counselors and administrators to land in county schools.

“I think this is an opportunity for not only our potential counselors but our potential administrators,” School Board vice chairwoman Susan Duval said. “This is great. It has a lot of positives to it and could greatly benefit this school district. I’m in favor of it, and yes, you have a lot of details to work out and bring back to us. But I think you have something really great going
on.”

Through the proposed school district partnership with Grand Canyon University out of Phoenix, Ariz., existing Hernando County school employees may be eligible to apply for a scholarship to continue their education in school counseling. Five scholarships are available. It’s a 3-year online program that allows for the completion of field experience within Hernando County.

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Among the requirements are three years of current employment with the school district, three years of effective or highly effective evaluations, a principal recommendation and an agreement to stay employed in the district for five years or pay back to the district the cost of the program’s tuition.

That cost will be $31,175 per employee who enters the program and $155,875 total for the five participants. That money will come out of the millage recruitment funds.

Ten scholarships would be available for St. Leo University’s Educational Leadership Master’s Program, at a cost of $15,076 per student. That money will likewise be covered by the millage recruitment funds.

This will be an 8-week long course with a fusion of Hernando County School District content into the coursework. It will provide seven free prep courses for the Florida Educational Leadership Examination (FELE), which must be passed to graduate and become educational leadership eligible.

Requirements are the same as with the counselor program. All classes are online and a weekly Zoom session will be offered.

“We’re really trying to blend convenience with rigor to make sure that by the time they finish our program they’re as AP-ready as I can possibly make them,” Dr. Jodi Lamb of St. Leo said during the presentation. “Because if I’m not doing that, then I’m not doing my job. As a former principal I feel it’s essential that we’ve got those pieces in place.

“… While I’m not a resident and never was in Hernando, I have loved Hernando. We just feel it is really important that we give to the communities who are right here. Just know we’ll make it work for you if given the opportunity. We’ll give you some real strong leaders.”

The only major concern raised came from board members Gus Guadagnino and Shannon Rodriguez, that some might take advantage of the programs to earn their certification before jumping ship to a different county that would provide a high enough salary to offset the money that would have to be repaid.

“The goal here is obviously retention,” Superintendent John Stratton said. “To have a program such as this, to make it as painless as possible for the employee, meaning it’s a tough enough job all day long. To make it even tougher with school becomes a barrier. To remove some of that, to remove the financial barrier and have your degree paid for, to me, that’s the retention piece.”

The board was unanimous in its praise of what the program could do for the county moving forward.
“I just have no doubt that this is going to be highly successful,” School Board chairwoman Linda Prescott said, “and I hope it’s a program that we have for many years.”

Chris Bernhardt
Chris Bernhardt
A resident of Spring Hill since 1986, Chris graduated from Springstead High in 1999 before moving on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida. In summer of 2003 he joined the staff at Hernando Today, working at the paper for 11 years as a sports reporter, the last three as sports coordinator in charge of the paper’s sports coverage. After an initial 3-year stint with Hernando Sun, he spent four years as a staff sports reporter at the Citrus County Chronicle. Follow on X @cpbernhardtjr.
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