Roundtable discussion held ahead of budget vote

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — Before commissioner’s vote on the budget, the Hamilton County Mayor and Schools Superintendent hosted a roundtable discussion.

A big focus of the Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger’s proposed budget is education.

“Now what we are trying to do is invest in the students, not in the buildings, not anything material, but something this community for many many decades is going to get a return on,” Mayor Coppinger said.

A budget roundtable with member’s of the children’s cabinet was held Monday morning. An issue they discussed was the need for more counselors.

Don Mueller, the CEO of Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, says he is concerned about depression and suicides among young people.

“The reality is a school is the place where kids are and that is where these bad things are starting to happen. With the resources we can identify these kids and get them the help they need,” Mueller said.

He says by the time students are admitted to the hospital, it’s too late.

“If we could catch these kids early on, before all of this compounded on them, we can stop that process, we can intervene in that process counselors need to do this in the schools. That is where it is most cost effective and that is where it is best for kids,” Muller said.

Dr. Bryan Johnson, the Hamilton County Schools superintendent, says the national standard for counselor to student ratio is 1 to 250.

“We are right now a 1 to 700 at the elementary level. We are trying to get to one to five hundred and trying to make sure that the span of control for the adult is more controlled.”

Sheriff Jim Hammond says SROs monitor and become a mentor to kids.

“They almost act like a counselor. They would like to see more school counselors,” Sheriff Hammond said.

Dr. Johnson says this budget is all about investing in students.

“Candidly speaking, I get the privilege of being the voice of 44,000 children. This is a children based budget. This budget is about the future of Hamilton County,” Dr. Johnson said.

Commissioners will vote on the budget next Wednesday.

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