GRAPHIC BY JADE KWITIKIWSKI
How do you rearrange the guidance counselors to account for the Old Lincoln School (OLS) campus but still keep everyone happy?
The guidance department was faced with the challenge of rearranging staff and redistributing caseloads this year. They hope changes can be made so they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
In years prior, guidance counselors each handled two grades. Kara Lopez was the guidance counselor solely for the Alternative Choices in Education (ACE) program and Dan Bresman was the guidance counselor solely for School Within a School (SWS). Dean Thomas also had a SWS caseload.
This year, two guidance counselors, Sara Aggeler and Alexandra Young, have been sent to OLS to be guidance counselors for just the freshman class. Additionally, Career Coordinator Kate Cordner is now also a freshman guidance counselor. Finally, ACE guidance counselor, Kara Lopez, has students who are not involved in ACE.
According to guidance counselor Clifton Jones, the school redistributed kids amongst the guidance counselors.
“So instead of hiring new counselors, they used the counselors in the building, and they didn’t add any positions,” Jones said.
According to guidance counselor Eric Schiff, counselors in the main building now have students in 10th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade instead of either having 9th grade and 11th grade students or 10th grade and 12th grade students.
“There is so much work to do for 12th graders in the fall and so much work to do with the 11th graders in the spring: what happens to the 10th graders? It’s going to be something that we have to deal with,” Schiff said.
One drawback of the new set-up is the physical division of the counselors department, with several now in a different building.
“We never see those guidance counselors except during some of the meetings and they never see us. They are probably feeling pretty isolated,” Schiff said.
Freshman guidance counselors also have to handle losing student relationships. According to Cordner, there are relationships formed and then lost once freshmen leave OLS, and it will be hard for the freshmen to transition to a new guidance counselor next year.
“It’s hitting us now that we are developing these really awesome relationships with freshmen, and they’re not going to be our students next year. I feel kind of lucky because I am at 115 Greenough part-time, so I will see some of my students, but I’m not going to be their person necessarily,” Cordner said
Having the freshman guidance counselors in one place could potentially cause problems since the freshmen take classes at both campuses. However, according to Young, since the guidance department is so collaborative and works well together, they are able to make it work.
“When Kate is not at OLS but one of her students there needs her, we sort of step in to help out. We also have deans that know students so they can step in as well. And same for here . Obviously, we’re not here, but Kate is, so if one of our students had an issue and needed to see someone, we always have that covered,” Young said.
Even if it is different, the freshman guidance counselors are adapting to the change.
“We meet in guidance meetings or in professional development and whatnot, but it’s definitely different. I’m used to having a lot of people around and there it’s just me and Sarah , and so we still collaborate a lot together but it’s a different feel for sure,” Young said. “We can always pick up the phone, though.”
Cordner said that they will start discussing what guidance will look like with the future freshman building at the end of this year, once they are able to debrief on how the year went with the changes made for OLS.
Jones said that he is frustrated that his big caseload prevents him from doing his job to the best of his ability.
“I’m working very hard, but I basically don’t have enough time during the day to see as many kids as I want to. Kids are pretty scheduled and there’s only certain times when they are free, so there’s lines out the office,” Jones said. “Something needs to be done so we’re not just seeing the high-risk high-need kids, but actually check in with kids when nothing is going on.”
Cordner believes that more counselors are needed, especially as the incoming grades have increasing numbers of students.
“Even though we have some counselors that have smaller caseloads, it takes away a little but not enough. We need more full-time people in our department, so we hope that happens in a few years,” Cordner said. “The counselors here are all great and we all want to make these connections with the students and that’s our job. it’s hard to do your job when there’s not enough time in the day.”