BETHLEHEM — While recent changes to student-counselor assignments throughout the Bethlehem Central School District were meant, in part, to ease the transition from the middle school to the high school, the move has some seniors concerned about how those changes could affect college recommendation letters, which may now be written by counselors with whom they are unfamiliar.
In a July 10 email, the district wrote to concerned students and their parents: “In planning for the restructuring, we developed a plan that was the least disruptive for our rising 12th graders (current 11th graders) who are in the midst of their college planning process. In order to accomplish this, many of our rising 12th graders will be keeping their current counselors, with the exception of a small group of students.”
Last year, the district evaluated its counseling program the using the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) model, according to K-12 School Counselor Supervisor Kristen Connor, to ensure academic, career and social and emotional development for all students. She noted that the restructuring was also intended to strengthen support for students transitioning from elementary to middle school as well as from middle to high school.
“We hired and assigned a counselor to each elementary building,” said Connor. “Every student will now have access to a full-time counselor. These elementary counselors work with administrators and teachers to support social-emotional curriculum, which includes, among other things, coping strategies, mindfulness and positive approaches to problem solving.
“At the middle school, counselors collaborate with faculty and staff to implement character strength programs, mindfulness programs and also are introducing the web-based resource for career planning, Naviance, to middle school students giving them (and their parents) greater opportunities to explore fields of study and college and career information.
“The high school counseling program has been restructured to include two dedicated ninth grade counselors who will be visible at the high school and middle school, lending additional support to our eighth grade students. The five remaining counselors will serve students in grades 10-12 supporting academic, social and emotional needs of students. In addition, the district hired a Student Assistance Counselor who will provide additional support to the department and to students who have mental health needs.”
In the case of seniors who will be given a new counselor in the coming year, BCSD spokesperson Jo Ellen Gardner said, “Our counselors are professionals who communicate regularly with one another and every senior will receive the same high level of service from the Counseling Center that they expect and deserve.”