The counselors from the Rolla Public School District gathered to promote National School Counseling Week at the Rolla School Board meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 1. The week falls on Feb. 5 to Feb. 9, and serves to highlight the “unique contributions that school counselors bring to our school systems,” according to a presentation made by Rolla High School counselor Sarah Kaelin.

“Counseling is more than just the people who hold the position, it’s a whole program, she said, explaining that a lot times the purpose of school counselors remains a mystery to parents and community members. While everyone has been in a classroom, and understands the role of a teacher, some students go through their educational career without speaking to a counselor more than a few times.

Missouri recently passed legislation addressing the hard work school counselors put in apart from helping students decide their class schedules. Previously known as “guidance counselors,” the legislation made the official title “school counselors,” according to Kaelin.

“We do so much more than just guiding students about their classes and their career paths,” she said. “We talk to them about strategies for success in the classroom of course, but we’re also helping them with mental health issues. We counsel, we teach and we advocate for students.”

Kaelin, along with Julie Peterman from Wyman Elementary, shared with the school board aspects of the counseling program they and others might be unaware of, along with their plans for growth.
 One of their key discussion points is that counseling is more than the staff members who make up the department, it’s an entire program that spans across buildings.

The presentation discussed the Missouri Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Program (MCGCP), which is curriculum provided by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The curriculum is made up of several areas of concentration and, according to Kaelin and Peterman’s presentation, enhances several aspects of a student’s life. such as academic performance and achievement, as well as maintains a positive and safe learning environment.

Many elements of the program are familiar to parents and former students, such as assisting students in developing future plans and transitioning through school, but also consists of what Kaelin and Peterman called “responsive services,” which are activities designed to meet the “immediate needs and concerns of students,” according to their presentation.

This element of responsive services is one of the areas the Rolla counseling program is most strong, according to Kaelin. She described several groups being formed at the schools to assist students with specific needs such as students with high stress levels and anxiety as well as those whose families might be in transition.

The Rolla counseling recently underwent a program review. According to Kaelin, it has been a few years since Rolla Public Schools has completed an Internal Improvement Review.

“We’re excited to dig in and find out how healthy our program is or isn’t so we can make some improvements,” said Kaelin. “This year we wanted to not only asses the district wide counseling program, but also [the program] in each building.” To complete this review, counselors in each school building sat down with administrators to evaluate the program.

Based on that review, Kaelin said they identified areas for improvement, but also found out where their strengths lie.

“We do a great job of meeting the needs of our kids in the minute, and that to me is super important,” said Kaelin. “You can’t focus on your classes if you’re having other issues that are keeping you from being successful.”

This next year, Kaelin said the counselors of Rolla Public Schools will be focusing on completely implementing the MCGCP in all buildings, and creating a comprehensive counseling manual for the district. Counselors for individual buildings have their own goals for meeting the needs of their specific students.

Look out later this week as the Rolla Daily News features the counselors of the Rolla School District.