In This Issue:
A Message from the WSCA Executive Director
A Message from the WSCA Board
Congratulations New Board Members
This Months Feature: Advocacy at the local level
Stand up for Your Program Resources
Summer Academy: SPECIAL MEMBER only promotion!
Action Alert! Wisconsin State Budget & DPI Perkins Funding
WI Technical College System
WISEdash: FAFSA Student Level Data
Save the Date: Fall Summit & Summer Academy
WSCA Volunteers Needed
A Message from the the WSCA Executive Director
Stacy Eslick, WSCA Executive Director
Advocating for your Counseling Program
As I travel the state facilitating ASCA model training there is a great deal of discussion around the four themes of the model: Leadership, Advocacy, Collaboration and Systemic Change. Most school counselors are drawn to this profession because they want to help students and excel at advocating for the needs of students and families. Counselors also teach students self-advocacy skills through our core curriculum lessons, planning conferences or responsive services. We are always encouraging students to self-advocate. Take a moment to reflect on the advocacy skills we want students to learn and apply and why it is so important.
Now is the time for school counselors in Wisconsin to challenge themselves to move beyond individual student advocacy and engage in advocating for school counseling programs by educating stakeholders about the critical role school counselors provide in schools. The reason WHY this advocacy needs to happen is so that school counselors have manageable caseloads, are doing school counselor duties and have more time to work with students. If there is not advocacy at the local level, counselors will continue to have more and more “other duties as assigned”, allocations reduced, caseloads increased, continued lack of understanding about pupil services roles, etc.
There is national momentum building on the critical importance school counselors play in schools. Do not let this opportunity pass by without getting involved. WSCA will continue to advocate for school counselors at the state level and provide our members resources, information and collaboration to support his work at the local level. Please review and use the resources in this edition of WSCAlink to advocate for your students having access to a comprehensive counseling program! We all need to work together to collectively engage in this important work.
A Message from the WSCA Board of Directors
Andrea Donegan, WSCA Board
Change is in the air.
Legislation is popping up all over the country to support the work of school counselors, and ultimately the students they passionately serve. In Arizona, the Governor proposed $12 million to fund school counselors and bring down school counselor:student ratios. Likewise, the Arkansas governor proposed school counselors be required to have more direct student contact, up from current legislation of 75% to 90% by removing non-counseling related duties. Washington State Superintendent, Chris Reykdal, gave support saying he would back legislation that mandates schools have school counselors. Currently, Washington schools are not required to have school counselors. In Utah, Malia Hansen’s words resonate in a letter she wrote after experiencing a traumatic lockdown as a middle schooler. She states, “the futures of students and communities are shaped by counselors.” She supports HB81, a bill directing the Board of Education to study school counselor responsibilities and prohibit them from performing duties unrelated to their training and expertise. The Senate gave final passage to HB81 last week. It appears that the message is getting out, school counselors play a pivotal role in educating students and they are well positioned to be key players in addressing the issues most pressing to our nation’s students.
School Counselor advocacy such as this is critical, not only to our profession, but more importantly, to the students we serve. While we cannot single handedly get legislation passed, we can be a powerful force if we all step up and join together – the power of many! As was eloquently stated by friend and colleague, Patrick O’Connor, our approach must focus on the needs of students in addition to the need for more school counselors. Taking a student centered approach makes a direct connection to the services that students are in need of and makes the argument more real and emotional. It answers the why? Students need more services including mental health, social emotional learning, career and college readiness, academic and behavioral supports, character development, positive school climate and safety/security. That’s the real story. It naturally leads to school counselors, because that is the work that we do. It is our training, our expertise, our wheelhouse.
Likewise, legislation is not the only path to advocacy. Find your advocacy comfort zone and start there. Advocacy in your own school is necessary and noteworthy. It might consist of an “ask,” such as gaining space to run small groups or eliminating one supervision duty so you can host a weekly drop in at lunch to talk about careers. If you don’t ask, the answer is always “no.” If you keep asking, the answer sometimes shifts in your favor. Be articulate, be passionate, be persistent! What “ask” will you make for next year?
Get yourself out there. That’s powerful advocacy. Put your name and title on every communication you send out to families, the community, and colleagues. It may seem obvious, but when I went back and looked at how many programs and communications that I was in charge of, I was quite surprised by how infrequently I attached my name and title to them. It’s not bragging, it’s branding and we need to do a better job of promoting and highlighting the important work we do. The best part is that it requires one minute of extra time.
How else can you get yourself out there? Attending and/or presenting at school board meetings, inviting the community to participate in your programming, and participating in local/regional/state initiatives related to areas of interest in the school counseling field will also get you out there and promote school counselors. Opportunities abound, not only in our WSCA organization, but also around the state. Contact Stacy Eslick, WSCA Executive Director, to learn about many current statewide initiatives that need your support.
The work you do is important. The students you serve are important. Advocacy underscores this importance in the most impactful manner.. with your voice.
Advocating for School Counselors!
By Pam Groh
President Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” I believe in former President Obama’s statement wholeheartedly. A couple years ago, one of the sectionals I participated in at the Wisconsin School Counseling Conference was the ‘Afternoon on the Hill’. This was an opportunity to put former President Obama’s words into action. I met with our ASCA Legislative Outreach Representatives, Nate Rice and Andrea Donegan, who helped us prepare to share our Wisconsin School Counseling talking points. I was scheduled to meet with my two legislators, Representative Scott Allen and Senator Chris Kapenga. I was fortunate to be joined by a School Counseling Intern, Bob Jansen, from Waukesha South High School. Bob and I worked as a team to communicate with our representatives.
Since the implementation of ACT 10, my school district has experienced a lot of change. With the reductions in education funding, we lost a third of our counseling positions and as a result, had to narrow our focus significantly, with less staff to support our work. We adapted; however, needs are high and I, along with others, feel the constraints of not feeling like there is enough time to do all of the programming we embrace. I decided to make my voice heard and became actively involved in connecting with my legislators. I have made personal phone calls and have requested sit down meetings to address issues about state funding and support for school counselors specifically. I believe it is critical to make my voice heard among our legislators. I want to do my part, as an active citizen, to speak on behalf of my profession and personal experiences. We need not fear stepping up and reaching out to talk to our legislators since they work for us, the people. We have the ability to educate, inform and hopefully influence their actions and decisions that they vote on which in some ways is very similar to our work with students.
In previous years, I met with Representative Paul Farrow who is now the Waukesha County Executive, the community in which I live. Representative Scott Allen and Senator Chris Kapenga are my contacts at the State Capitol now. As Senators and Representatives change guard, I believe it is important to continue to educate the new representatives about our roles, concerns, progress and achievements. Legislators are not able to know the details of every single political issue, and it is important that involved and informed individuals take part in their civic duty to inform our representatives. I am a strong believer that every voice matters and our voices must be heard. Taking the opportunity to participate in the ‘Afternoon on the Hill’ provided me the opportunity to make my voice heard and share our successes and concerns as a school counseling organization. Our legislators must hear what our positions are on topics that are impacting young people’s lives and how we are serving the students and families in our schools. Programs and support services have been impacted by the reduction in personnel yet our commitment to our important roles means that we must execute each task with efficiency and purpose, to the best of our ability. It is up to us, as school counselors, to advocate on behalf of our profession and share the positive results our work with children and families has within our communities. We make a difference and we actively collect data to measure the impact we have in students’ lives and use this data to drive our work.
I am advocating for WSCA members and others to meet their legislators face to face, however, there are other ways that individuals can also have their voices heard. Ways you can reach out to your legislators to share your thoughts and ideas is through email, fax, or phone, all of which can be found through a simple google search. In an article titled “How to Lobby Your Elected Representatives” the article states, “Your Members of Congress were elected to represent you, so by all means, let them know what you think.” This is so true. Elected officials have an obligation to hear from their constituents, and will act accordingly depending on how many of their constituents share those same thoughts or beliefs and whether or not the issue is something that they have enough supporting information to believe in the purpose and cause. We have to remember that it is constituents that put our Representatives in their elected positions to work on our behalf. They know that our vote, for or against them, is based on positions they take on legislation brought in front of them. Please, take advantage of this incredible influence we have with legislators since it is the people that voted them into office. To read more about how to lobby your legislators, please access the link below.
For certain, if we don’t speak up the opportunity for change is not possible. Over the years we have talked about who we are as school counselors and how our roles support the academic success, career development and planning, and social-emotional development of the students we serve. We address topics that plague our students, including: families coping with alcohol and other drug abuse concerns, mental health issues and truancy, to name a few. We have also spoken to our legislators about the ASCA counselor to student recommended ratio.
This year, I thanked our representatives for their support as it relates to moving forward with Academic and Career Planning for 6th – 12th grade students. I requested that my Senator and Representative ask for Governor Walker’s bill to add funds for all school pupil services positions and emphasized, most importantly, school counselors because our jobs also address mental health concerns with students and family members, on a regular basis. Our work is essential in supporting students’ academic success, career plan development and social emotional growth. We work with students who deal with tough situations at home and school. We teach skills to address conflict, help students learn how to advocate for themselves, and encourage them to believe in themselves and take full advantage of their right to an education.
Just as Trish Hatch shared in her opening address to the WSCA conference (2017), we ‘need to pursue being at the table’ with those who are making decisions about the important work we do with students and families. Here is a site to be able to access your Federal and State legislators:https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Barack Obama Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2017, from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/barackobam409128.html
Cause, C. (n.d.). How to Lobby Your Elected Representatives. Retrieved March 28, 2017, fromhttp://www.heartsandminds.org/articles/lobby.htm
How to Contact Your Elected Officials. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2017, from https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Counselor Advocacy in Action!
By Jennifer Reuchlen, WSCA School Counselor of the Year
The Burlington High School Counseling Department was honored with a visit from State Representative Robin Vos and Senator Van Wanggaard in early March. Office staff for Representative Vos reached out to our principal, Eric Burling, to inquire about a “citation presentation” to the school counselors (Laura Stutzman, Karl Richter, Chris Bornhuetter, and Jennifer Reuchlen) as recipients of the Program of Promise Award and to Jennifer Reuchlen as recipient of the Wisconsin School Counselor of the Year Award through WSCA. Representative Vos received notice of these awards from the association in a press release in late January.
Representative Vos and Senator Wanggaard asked that their visit include time after the presentation to sit down with the counseling team to discuss our comprehensive program and issues we see in our students and the educational setting. The discussion provided a wonderful opportunity for open lines of communication and afforded our department (comprised of four school counselors, one school social worker, and one school psychologist) the chance to advocate for the work we do to help all students succeed. The meeting lasted nearly an hour covering a variety of topics.
Conversation naturally flowed to the role of a school counselor, and we highlighted the recommended ASCA ratio of 250:1 and shared the ASCA infographic, “Who are School Counselors?”. At BHS, we have an approximate caseload of 280 students per school counselor, which greatly assists us to provide direct services to students in an equitable fashion. We explained our use of data to identify student needs and achievement gaps to develop school counseling program goals, with reference to the seven WSCPARs that we have written.
Foremost, the conversation centered around mental health of our students and the need for services within the building. While serving at the high school level, we emphasized the importance of school counselors and licensed support personnel across all grade levels. Young children need access to school counselors with whom they can build a relationship and acquire strategies to foster social and emotional learning, in addition to academic and career planning. We referenced the upcoming budget, advocating for monies to be attributed to mental health in our schools and licensed professionals to serve these needs in the educational setting. Senator Wanggaard and Representative Vos expressed a vested interest in learning what a typical day in the life of a school counselor is, with the irony being that no day is typical- as they came to quickly understand. The school counselors shared some of their personal experiences, and Senator Wanggaard shared insights he has learned from his own daughter, an elementary school teacher in southeastern Wisconsin. The conversation ended with Senator Wanggaard and Representative Vos asking if we could serve as points of contact when running ideas past educators, to which we unequivocally responded yes, and they provided an open invitation for us to reach out with any ideas or concerns at any time in the future.