Guidance Counselor Crisis: The stress of a heavy workload

Lower student to counselor ratios at schools do not just mean more attention for each student. In some cases it means better test scores in math and reading.

NewsCenter16’s Megan Hickey showed us Wednesday how Indiana and Michigan are lagging behind the national average with ratios that are two and even three times larger than what's recommended.

Now, we are finding out how it is affecting counselors' workloads.

It is a common sentiment among many Michiana counselors.

“The roles we have had to take on, all necessary, all good, but you can only split yourself so many times,” said Christina Clements, a guidance counselor at John Young Middle School.

However, budget restraints have left many counselors doing the work of two or three. In the fall of 2011, those budget battles led to some restructuring at Niles High School.

“You know there's never a good spot to take from so Niles looked at their budget and thought that the tasks of counselor could be divided over other folks,” said Josie Dejong, college and career counselor at Niles High School.

And Joan Langmeyer, with her masters in counseling, was sent to teach in a classroom.

“We no longer had guidance counselors as an official position,” said Langmeyer, a student support counselor at Niles.

However, within that first semester, problems came up, especially with college and career support.

“They found during first semester that wow there were some things that they couldn't do during the semester,” said Langmeyer.

The next year, Niles hired another counselor and now their roles are split - one working just with college/career, the other with social/emotional cases.

The work is split up, but their caseloads remain at 900 students a piece, which can be difficult to juggle when there is a student crisis.

Feeble efforts have been made to make a federal mandate of 250 students to 1, the ratio recommended by the American Counseling Association. Most counselors admit -- the most effective changes could come at the local level.

And you can voice your opinion at your local school board meeting. They are often held twice a month, and now is the time that many corporations will be discussing future budgets.

Those types of meetings are often the most effective way to let your community know what positions and services you think your school should be willing to keep.

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