A Letter to the Editor of the Telegraph from Barbara Hermes

To the editor:

In light of Ms. Faley’s article in the Dixini regarding the nearly impossible task of one counselor servicing 800 students, I am compelled to share my thoughts.  I taught at DHS for 26 years, the last 11 years I was a school counselor.  I am outraged and saddened that there was even consideration given this school year to reducing the counseling staff from three to two counselors.  In this day and age, school counselors wear a number of hats:  test coordinators, schedulers, social/emotional/personal counselors, career advisors, and college counselors.  In addition to this, DHS caseloads have included a significant percentage of special needs students. I emailed each school board member and asked for them to carefully review and consider reestablishing the counseling position eliminated at DHS. The American School Counseling Association (ASCA) recommends a ratio of 250 students per 1 counselor.  In the case of Dixon High School this would mean a minimum of three counselors.  Currently the counselors at DHS have a caseload of 413 students each; and, during the 12 weeks Mrs. Ebert was on maternity leave, one counselor was assigned to 826 students! In order to adequately meet the academic, career, and social-emotional needs of our students, an additional counselor is needed.

I took the liberty of surveying area schools with approximately the same enrollment and getting those enrollment numbers from the Illinois Interactive Report Card (IIRC) as to the ratio of students per counselor. Not one school operates with the extreme number of students per counselor that have been assigned at DHS! These calculations do not take into account social workers or community agency counselors assigned to schools.

HIGH SCHOOL

STUDENTS

COUNSELORS

RATIO

Sterling 1,039 4 260:1
Rochelle 940 4 235:1
Streator 889 3 296:1
Geneseo 866 3 289:1
Marengo 820 3 273:1
Dixon 826 2 413:1

 

I know this district has made an incredible number of cuts over the past few years, but there is no arguing that every student needs support, guidance, and opportunities during their high school years. This is a time of rapid growth and change and our teens face unique and diverse challenges, both personally and developmentally, that impact academic achievement. Certified school counselors are professional educators with a mental health perspective who understand and respond to these challenges. As a former DHS counselor, and a four decade citizen of this community, I hope and pray that the DPS School Board keep in mind what is best for our students, not what appears to be a budget concern.

Barbara Hermes

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