Due to pressure caused by a growing student population, the counseling department appealed to the school board and asked for another counselor to be hired in addition to the current six, a request that was recently accepted. In recent years, counselors have found it harder to give students personalized attention because of their busy schedules.
“Our schools have grown significantly over the last few years,” Counseling Department Coordinator Ryan Carter said. “Our district has always been committed to providing our students with the best support possible. Adding another counselor at each school helps ensure that our services, and the quality of these services, remain at as high a level as our community has come to expect, while our student body continues to grow.”
The sudden increase in enrollment can be attributed to the rapid growth of the technology industry combined with the appeal and relevance of Silicon Valley. With the school’s current population, each of the five main counselors is currently responsible for 384 students on average. Union rules do not allow that number to exceed 400, meaning that an additional counselor may soon be contractually necessary. All students currently receive an annual 30-minute counseling appointment with their parents, which is becoming increasingly difficult for counselors to schedule and manage.
“The job of being a counselor has gotten so complicated and so multi-faceted that while students have anxiety, counselors have anxiety too about making sure they have reached all the kids and not missed something,” Assistant Principal Perla Pasallo said. “Even if [the caseloads haven’t] reached 400, it’s still a lot. To get more breathing room, to see more kids, to be more accessible, that is the reason we [need] this person.”
MVLA approaches counseling slightly differently from surrounding districts, specifically in the way that counselors are divided up. Instead of having specialized counselors who only deal with one particular area, the school’s counselors serve a single group of students for four years, nourishing growth of strong personal relationships.
“We use a highly individualized counseling model,” Carter said. “Our counselors meet individually with every student and their parents at every grade level, every year. This is something that you very rarely see in public high schools because in most public high schools, the student to counselor ratio is too high to sustain [that model]. We’re fortunate in our district to have the resources to be able to support this model as well as district leaders who see the value in strong counseling support for our students.”
The administration is currently formulating a list of interviewees, and the hiring process will begin at the end of April. They expect the process to take about two weeks and will most likely have hired a candidate by the end of April.
Characteristics the administration are looking for in particular include commitment to student wellness, understanding of the difficulty of college applications and comprehension of the achievement gap. In addition, the administration would prefer someone with as much experience as possible.
“If they understand [the achievement gap], they’ll know how to help the student select classes, help the student get support, know that the student comes with a story that might be very deep and include things that they will need to support them emotionally or however else,” Pasallo said. “They’ll understand the importance of supporting the student with resources and a lot of care [to benefit] their achievement.”