To this day, schools across the country use the counselor system, in which all students in a given grade consult with a single guidance counselor on issues such as class schedules to college applications to mental health.
However, at Paly, this system has long been abolished, due to the results of all-school survey published in The Campanile on Jan. 17, 1992 that revealed widespread student dissatisfaction with the counselor system. This controversy ignited a school-wide discussion on the reformation of the Guidance Department and eventually led to the creation of the Teacher Advisory (TA) system.
Although the Guidance Department stated “developing an individual educational and career plan that will be updated annually with each student as the top priority,” according to the January 1992 issue, 68 percent of juniors and 87 percent of freshmen indicated that they had never formulated a four-year plan with their counselors throughout high school.
In addition, 52 percent of those who did receive help from their guidance counselor still found the counselor system inaccessible.
“My counselor called me in for an appointment and made me wait 45 minutes before she finally had time to see me,” one respondent of the survey said in the January 1992 issue. “She looked at her list and said, ‘oh are you here to see me, too?’ She called me in, and she’s asking me that?”
Moreover, the poll showed that the vast majority of students were inclined to turn to their counselor for mostly clerical tasks, such as academic planning and college applications, but not personal issues such as mental health.
“It’s amazing to me that I can spend more time restructuring a student’s schedule until it’s just perfect than I can spend counseling a suicidal student,” said Jack Phillips, one of the four guidance counselors in 1992.
One month after the poll’s publication, former principal Sandra Pearson requested the Site Council, which oversees the school budget, to form a committee to develop plans for a more accessible and efficient counseling system.
The committee quickly submitted its proposal for a new TA system, which increased the counselor-student ratio significantly by training teachers to become counselors, thus relieving the school of the financial burden of employing more counselors.
It is clear that the department is meeting the needs of less than a quarter of the student body. It is a waste of time and money for three professionals to be performing tasks that could easily be carried out by paraprofessionals.
1992 Campanile EdBoard
The TA system went into effect in fall of the 1992-93 school year and received positive responses from a majority of students, according to multiple surveys conducted by The Campanile. In contrast, Gunn High School uses the counselor system to this day.
“1 think, for me, my teacher advisor did a great job, and I feel lucky to be her advisee,” one senior said in the January 25, 1993 issue. “She’s like my mother.”