Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

September 12, 2013

MARK HEINIG: How can we help our high school counselors?

Collaborate with parents, health officials

ASept. 5 column in the Koko-mo Tribune by Bill Stan-czykiewicz discusses the “high school counseling crisis in Indiana.” I agree with Mr. Stan-czykiewicz. We certainly do have a high school counseling crisis, but that is only one component of a much older and far-reaching crisis: school funding and staffing. His main idea is that our public high schools don’t have enough qualified counselors, and we don’t use those whom we have wisely.

He is correct on both points. I taught at and directed both public and Catholic high schools at various times during my career. We need more counselors in all Indiana high schools, public and nonpublic. If our high schools now have about 539 students per counselor, the ratio is even worse than I thought. Each counselor used to have a caseload of about 250 to 300 students. Ideally, high school counselors should be free to focus entirely on the students’ academic needs, college readiness and career counseling.

If that’s happening anywhere in Indiana, I’m not aware of it. High school counselors are vulnerable. They are the only faculty members except administrators who don’t have classes to teach. Principals often give them responsibilities that have nothing to do with school counseling. I was just as guilty as other principals.

If there is a high school principal anyplace who isn’t forced to delegate administrative tasks to counselors, that place is not in Indiana! Here, principals have no realistic alternative. The demands on the principal’s time are growing so fast even those with one or more assistant principals often can’t keep up. Changing state and federal regulations have caused much of this, but not all of it.

So the workloads of school counselors keep growing, but their day is still just 24 hours long, just like the principal’s and everybody else’s. High school principals and counselors face similar frustrating dilemmas. If I hired another counselor, I had less money to pay teachers. Less money meant laying off teachers or not replacing teachers who resigned or retired.

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