Guidance Counselor Crisis: And then there were none

During a rough budget year for schools across Michiana, Niles High School temporary cuts its official “counselor” position for a brief period in 2011. The result of that experiment might help show the necessity of school counselor positions as the need for their services continues to rise.

“There had to be some budget cuts and you know there’s never a good spot to take from,” explained current Niles High School College and Career Counselor, Josie DeJong. “So Niles looked at their budget and thought that the tasks of counselor could be divided over other folks.”

Counselor Joan Langmeyer, with her masters in counseling, was sent back to the classroom… but not for long.

“They found during first semester that there were some things that they couldn’t do during the semester,” said Langmeyer, who was then reinstated as to a counselor position after gaps in student support arose, especially for college and career support.

Since then the positions have been split, with Langmeyer serving as the “student support counselor” while DeJong handles all “college and career responsibilities”.

“I think the juggling is a little less now than it used to be because we are so focused,” said DeJong, who has responsibility for 900 students and their college and career support. “But if there are several emergencies at one time then it can be very difficult.”

Both counselors admit it would be much less difficult with additional counselors on hand, but realize that budgetary restraints have put that vision in the distant future.

“It tears at my heart strings to think of students either not being able to talk with me or have the benefit of counseling support services at school if he or she needs them,” Langmeyer said. “If I’m dealing with a crisis situation, then no, I am not available to talk to a student about the stress of failing a class and that situation. And it tears at my heart.”

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