Naples school changes counselor policy
Stars and Stripes August 6, 2009
NAPLES, Italy — Guidance counselor visits will increase at Naples Elementary School classrooms when school starts later this month.
Counselors will be assigned to whole classes and grades, rather than using an "alpha split" where students were assigned to counselors based on the alphabetical order of their last names, according to school principal Mona Morgan.
Last year, counselors spent about 5 percent of their time in the classroom, according to Manny Losada, one of the school’s counselors. That amount of time is far below standards set by the American School Counselor Association, which calls for 35 to 45 percent of a counselor’s time to be spent in the classroom.
"Some of the teachers didn’t see a counselor in their class all year," said Losada, adding that the alpha split reduced "character education" — lessons on topics such as bullying or anger management — which are supposed to be provided to elementary students.
While there is no set policy for how much time should be spent in the classroom, Marc Mossburg, Department of Defense Education Activity’s chief of curriculum, advised school superintendents to use the Counselor Association guidelines, according to an e-mail circulated to educators in May.
Morgan inherited the alpha split when she took over as principal last year.
It had been recently implemented because some parents wanted their children to have the same guidance counselor, regardless of what grade they were in, according to Angela Langilotti, a Naples guidance counselor who transferred to Bahrain over the summer.
"We were trying to satisfy the parents by using the alpha split. Unfortunately this upset some of the faculty," said Langilotti. "We did provide responsive counseling services on an as-needed basis, even if there weren’t regular classroom visits."
Naples Elementary’s sixth-grade teachers raised repeated concerns about the lack of classroom counseling lessons, despite that grade level having "more than its share of bullying problems this year," according to an e-mail from sixth-grade teachers sent to school counselors, a copy of which was provided to Stars and Stripes.
Additionally, counseling instruction that was not included in the Sure Start classrooms last year will be included this coming year.
The Sure Start program targets at-risk preschoolers to prepare them for kindergarten
Sure Start teacher Jennifer Boyd said she had received "conflicting information" from DODEA and school officials regarding counseling policies.
"The purpose of the program is to get them ready for kindergarten," Boyd said. "So [administrators] already know they’re at risk coming in, and yet they didn’t want to give them [classroom] counseling services, which makes no sense."
One of the school’s counselors will be dedicated to the school’s two Sure Start classes this year, Morgan said.
"We have to listen to our teachers because they deal with the children all day," Morgan said. "The bottom line is we need to do what’s best for the children."