In the wake of a recent threat from a student at Wilson Middle School, Northwest ISD officials have demonstrated their goal of prioritizing student well-being in times of crisis.

The details

After a recent incident at Wilson Middle School involving students threatening the lives of their peers was revealed, Northwest ISD officials had a plan in place to provide support.

Jamie Farber, director of guidance and counseling, said via email that regardless of their home campus, counselors voluntarily serve other NISD campuses in times of greater crisis.

“Currently, 36 Northwest ISD counselors serve on these ‘flight teams’ in preparation to be called upon in time of need,” Farber said. “Wilson Middle School received added assistance in the days following a recent threat.”

A closer look

Farber said that Northwest ISD employs a total of 73 counselors and social workers that include one school counselor per campus at the elementary level, three counselors per campus at middle schools and teams of six to eight school counselors based on enrollment at the high school level.

Farber said that high school campuses also have additional support personnel including:
  • 4 intervention counselors
  • 4 truancy intervention counselors
  • 4 counselors/social workers who work to remove barriers for students and families
  • 1 early college high school counselor
  • 1 special program center/at-risk counselor
Besides counselors, Farber said that the district offers other mental health resources including the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine for Northwest ISD students to receive free counseling. The district has also partnered with organizations such as Teen Life and Recovery Resource Council, which provides opportunities for students to participate in group sessions and My Health My Resources, which provides mental health support services at the county level.

This school year, district officials initiated a wellness ambassador program. Farber said that wellness ambassadors assist counselors in focusing on prevention and wellness initiatives in areas such as:
  • Suicide/violence prevention
  • Bullying/cyber-bullying
  • Substance use
“Approximately 60 students from our four high schools attended a district-wide wellness ambassador summit in November and subsequently were trained in the teen version of youth mental health first aid,” Farber said. “Additionally, the plan is for the high school student wellness ambassadors to conduct prevention work at their feeder middle schools this fall.”

Put in perspective

As Northwest ISD is a fast-growth school district, staffing is typically added each year due to increased enrollment. Farber said that in 2022-23, a district-level counseling coordinator was added for counseling programs and support. She added that for the 2024-25 school year, five elementary campuses will receive a second counselor following the determination of need based on several indicators. However, due to projected budgetary constraints for the 2024-25 school year, Farber said that there are some concerns about the level of support the district can provide.

“With the state’s lack of funding to school districts, school counselor-to-student ratios are starting to climb again,” Farber said. “Texas recommends 1:350, and the American School Counselor Association recommends 1:250. Currently, we are exceeding ratios at some levels.”