(JULIE NGUYEN / EYE OF THE TIGER)
Starting this year, all students except for seniors were reassigned different counselors – one of the first steps to a greater change to the structure of counseling and wellness services provided at RHS. In the future, students’ counselors will not be determined alphabetically based on last name; rather, counselor assignments will aim to help counselors focus on students who need it most.
For instance, the district eliminated the position “special services coordinator” – a delineated counselor for students with special needs. Instead, each counselor will be assigned special needs students, so that the students can receive more individualized help. According to counselor Jason Bradley, counselors are receiving specialized training to work with these new groups of students.
“We were providing certain services and supports to our students without disabilities that our students with disabilities weren’t getting,” Bradley said. “[Now] we get to work with every student on campus. It’s a learning curve because we aren’t experts in special education or students with English learner’s needs – but it’s cool that we get to work with them now.”
The counselor redistribution is part of the inclusion of MTMDSS policies in the district – Multi-Tiered and Multi-Domain Systems of Support.
These are policies that address domains like academics, social support and college and career support for students. It focuses on providing different levels of support for each person based on their individual need.
The change means that the general student population will spend less time with counselors – for instance, counselors will no longer do one-on-one freshman counseling. In lieu of that, counselors may see students in larger groups, and will continue their normal requested one-on-one advising. More time will be spent with students who are identified as needing more help.
“Our time in the office is going to be less for sure,” Bradley said. “There are some other duties that we have that relate to the shift in counselor caseloads that are going to take up time.”
The Health and Wellness Center has also changed several policies this year to make it more accessible for students.
Last year, students had to make an appointment with the Health and Wellness Center in order to come in to receive assistance; now, students can drop in whenever they need help.
Additionally, the Health and Wellness Center has developed new services, such as school-wide events, Bring Change to Mind Club, as well as mental health awareness months. As a result of this greater undertaking of programs, the Health and Wellness Center now has three new interns to help with attendance success plans at RHS, which mental health associate Honeymae Fuentes said will expand the wellness center’s reach.
“I have a lot more time to plan these school-wide events… besides having our appointments with kids,” Fuentes said. “We kind of have to balance things and wear multiple hats, just like every other teacher and counselor.”
With the intent of aiding the initiative of RJUHSD developing its MTMDSS program, the California Department of Education issued RJUHSD a grant.This has helped fund a district counselors’ trip to Boston for the American School’s Counseling Conference over the summer.
It was also used to enter a partnership with former Director of Counseling Processes at SDSU Trish Hatch to train counselors. Bradley believes both trainings have helped the counseling team better approach supporting students.
“I think it was well spent on bringing Trish Hatch because she and her team are experts on school counseling and delivering world class models to the high schools they work with,” Bradley said.