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Ask principals what they want, and many respond: more teachers.

Ask them what they need, and almost all say: counselors and social workers.

"I should have had a degree in counseling and psychology. That's what I spend most of my time on," said Kathleen Franklin, principal of School 74, an early childhood center.

Principals and teachers say they're overwhelmed by the problems students bring to school.

Ninety-five percent of principals and teachers responding to a Buffalo News survey said the number of students coming to school troubled in some way has increased in the past decade; 75 percent said the numbers have increased dramatically; and 93 percent said the schools don't have adequate resources to deal with these troubled children.

Buffalo schools spend considerably less on pupil services -- guidance, social work, psychology, attendance and health services -- than other districts in Erie County and the four other large urban districts in the state.

During the 1992-93 school year, Buffalo spent $185 per student on these services, compared with an average of $248 per student elsewhere in the county and $274 per student in Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and New York City.

Guidance counselors in Williamsville, a district regarded as a local leader in counseling, handle an average of 231 students in high school and 284 in middle school (grades 5-8). The average for high school counselors in the city is 397, while junior high counselors at some city schools handle as many as 400.

"The idea of a guidance counselor working with 400 kids is absurd," said Frank Scinta, the city's Teacher of the Year in 1994 and a music instructor at Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts.

"We probably miss $1 million a year in scholarships," he said.

The staff shortages extend to social workers and psychologists. Buffalo employs about 60, but three-quarters are assigned to work with special-education students.

The lack of staff hurts schoolchildren, educators said.

"I have students with severe problems on a waiting list for service. We need to get more counselors in here," said Bernice Richardson, principal of School 6, the Academic Challenge Center.

Mrs. Richardson, like most principals, can recite horror stories about the lives of many of her pupils.

Of girls raped by their brothers and grandfathers.

Of the children who drag themselves into school sleepy after a restless night of drive-by shootings on their streets.

Of children who have witnessed one parent kill the other.

"They bring all that anger in here, and the first thing that happens is they explode," she said.

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