New guidance system benefits students, counselors

To streamline communication and promote consistency, administrators have introduced a redesigned, alphabet-organized guidance counselor assignment system, resulting in hundreds of counselor changes for students. 

After almost ten years of utilizing grade-level counselor assignments, guidance counselors are now assigned based on a student’s last name. Assistant Principal Michelle Steingart, the administrator who oversees the guidance department, said the discussion around reworking the system started several years ago. Steingart said the change addresses parents’ concerns about consistency and building a relationship with a counselor through grade levels.

“Sometimes, families have two or three students here in different grade levels and are having to interact with different school counselors,” Steingart said. “And while we do our best to keep practices aligned, every school counselor has their own spin on things.”

Steingart said the change also balances the counselors’ workload. While lower grade level counselors cover responsibilities like course selection, upper grade level counselors also deal with standardized testing, college preparation and post-graduation plans.

Steingart said varying class sizes also created an unequal distribution of counselor responsibilities.

“Our senior class is currently around 550 students, and our freshman class is around 470 students,” Steingart said. “So you have one counselor who’s working with 80 more students than another counselor, which is a big difference.”

Counselor James Hamilton said he thinks the alpha-sort system will be widely beneficial.

“The responsibilities change from year to year, so there are things that you really get buried with as a junior and senior counselor,” Hamilton said. “And spreading those out creates a more equitable workload for us.”

Steingart said she hopes having multiple counselors per grade will also improve rapport between counselors, teachers and students.

“The counselors will be able to retain relationships and understanding of class procedures and how best to support students in each of those grade levels for every year,” Steingart said. 

And Hamilton said the feedback from families and counselors has been mostly positive. He did say, though, that he is worried for students who already have a connection with their counselor being forced to deal with this change.

“I have worked with my students for three years, so I think you form a strong relationship over that period of time,” Hamilton said. 

Senior Johannah Seah said she understands the appeal of the new system but said it is inconvenient for students with a 504 plan or an IEP. 

“I had 504 plan meetings with my counselor, which was pretty important because they understand my history and went to those meetings in the past,” Seah said. “So if they were still my counselor, it would have been a lot easier.” 

While the timing of the counselor change was inconvenient, Seah does think the benefits will outweigh the challenges. 

“The issue will phase out,” Seah said. “Then once everyone has the same counselor for all four years, I think the system will do more good.”