Patricia Abernethy, the school system's deputy superintendent of instruction, said adding counselors to schools was not even in the budget for fiscal year 2004 because too many other requirements mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind act needed to be fulfilled.
The grant will take effect in the fall.
"This becomes a pure gift for the students," she said.
Russell said no one has been hired yet to fill the specialist position.
"They will work with all elementary school counselors to spot students with unmet needs, behavior and attendance problems," among other tasks, he said.
Abernethy said a counseling task force has been developed to advise the person who takes the specialist position.
Russell said the two schools to which new full-time counselors will be added has yet to be determined, but their placement will depend on whether a school already has a full-time counselor, its size and its needs.
He said most elementary schools have part-time counselors.
Russell said elementary school counselors work primarily to spot behavioral problems and attendance problems that may be the root of a greater emotional issue.
"Almost everything is linked to student achievement," he said.
Russell said counselors work with elementary school students, and sometimes parents, to figure out why a child is acting a certain way, such as repeatedly coming to school late, not coming at all or bullying other children.
He said elementary school counselors also have a curriculum designed to teach students such life lessons as making friends and avoiding strangers.
Russell said the goal is to ensure that students, especially in the early stages of education, see school as a challenging, yet pleasurable place to be.
"If we notice that they are missing four or five days (of school) in the fourth grade, we may prevent them from dropping out when they're 16," he said.