Steamboat Springs School District counselors working to restructure services

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— It’s an ongoing process, but a group of Steamboat Springs School District counselors is working toward making its services a more integral part of the educational experience on campuses.

For six days this school year, counselors from both elementary schools, the middle school, high school and North Routt Community Charter School have worked with district Curriculum Director Marty Lamansky to restore and improve counseling services available to students.

The team also brought in career and academic specialist Tracy Thompson, of the Colorado Community College System Office, to help district counseling reach its goal of implementing the American School Counseling Association's national model.

“The counselors, Tracy and myself have spent six days so far this year working on this program development,” Lamansky said at Monday’s Steamboat Springs School Board meeting. “They have come up with a very good comprehensive school counseling program and an overview of goals.”

High school counselor Shelby DeWolfe said that when a reduction in staff time and attention occurred during last year’s budget process, it highlighted some much-needed changes after going through the 2013-14 year with an almost entirely part-time staff district-wide.

At Monday’s meeting, the counselors presented their progress and future plans for a more comprehensive and proactive counseling program under ASCA’s framework.

The group’s most recent review stated its overall goals were to define the program, align it with the ASCA standards and be able to have a clear articulation throughout the district between grade levels and its counselors. The group is scheduled to meet with Thompson one more time this year.

“We wanted to come together as a K-12 team and really formulate a comprehensive program that is sustainable and really proved the value that a counseling program can have on academics,” DeWolfe said.

The Monday presentation laid out ASCA’s national model as preventative in design and developmental in nature. It hinges on a team framework, in which counselors district-wide would collaborate regularly, and it boasts as a program that includes a strict evaluation system “to ensure accountability year to year,” part-time high school and middle school counselor Kelle Schmidt said.

During the presentation, the counselors stressed that program remodel aligns with being named a “district of distinction” four years running by the Colorado Department of Education.

They also addressed Steamboat’s “unique community needs,” stating that it has an 85 percent graduation rate and quadruple the state suicide average.

Steamboat Springs High School dropped from four counselors in 2012-13 to 3 1/2 full-time staff members this school year. In its recently presented 2014-15 budget proposal, the high school is asking for that reduction to be put back in conjuction with the counseling restructure.

In 2013-14, the elementary schools employed two full-time counselors, and Steamboat Springs Middle School had 1 1/2 full-time counselors on campus.

Under the new model, counselors at each school would provide their program goals with a yearly calendar of counseling activities.

At Friday’s staff development day, details of the K-12 program will be finalized and put into writing as a guide for further development, the plan states.

“How do we provide consistency across grade levels is essentially what we are looking at,” Schmidt said. “To ensure that all students have equal access to a rigorous education is part of that, too. How do we deliver that, and how do we actively develop it?”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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