There have been four deaths by suicide of current and former Detroit Lakes Public Schools students within in the past three years, as Detroit Lakes School Board members learned at their Monday night board meeting.

That startling statistic was part of a presentation by local high school counselors Doreen Richter, Sara Pender and Nathan Ochsner, titled "What Do School Counselors Do All Day?"

The potential for suicidal thoughts is just one reason why students' emotional and social health is just as important as their academic and extracurricular achievements, Pender explained.

"Anxiety and depression are huge," she said, adding that students need to have someone there to help them during the difficult times in their lives.

As all three counselors noted, their role is much more involved than providing guidance to students about their career options and educational opportunities after they graduate — although that is still part of their mandate.

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In addition to providing that academic and career guidance, however, school counselors are also committed to helping students with their personal and social needs and goals, through things like individual planning and goal setting; individual and small group counseling; classroom presentations; and other responsive services to students, parents and teachers.

"We're looking out for all students, including those who are struggling," Ochsner said.

"Are you available to students after school?" asked board member Jane Foltz.

"We never leave a student hanging if they are in crisis," Richter answered, adding, "We hope to be a positive force in our students' lives every day."

Workforce goals

Also at Monday night's meeting, the board held a public hearing on the 2018-19 World's Best Workforce (WBWF) report presented by Renee Kerzman, director of curriculum, instruction and technology for the district. Kerzman presented a summary of the report, which is required to be presented annually to the Minnesota Department of Education.

The WBWF report measures student achievement and integration, including such district goals as closing the achievement gaps between different economic and social groups; achieving grade-level literacy for all third grade students; and ensuring a 100% graduation rate for all Detroit Lakes Public Schools students.

According to Kerzman, the district has made strides in all of its WBWF goals.

She highlighted the district's 2018 four-year graduation rate for all DLHS students, which was at just under 92% — while the statewide rate was at just over 83% for the same time frame.

Kerzman also noted that 60% of all Detroit Lakes third graders had achieved grade-level literacy during the 2018-19 school year, "and we felt pretty good about that." While MDE's expectation is that 90% of all third graders in the district achieve this level, "that's a pretty lofty goal," she added.

Closed session

Toward the end of the meeting, the board met in closed session to discuss a couple of items: Strategy for impending contract negotiations with teachers and other employee groups; and whether or not the district should make an offer to purchase a piece of private property adjacent to the Lincoln Education Center at 220 E. Willow St.

According to Superintendent Doug Froke, no action was taken on either item following the closed session.