Helping students achieve success in class work, prepare for college and develop strong social skills are the goals of school counselors, according to the program evaluation presented to school board members Jan. 17.

Ten counselors are assigned to schools in the district, including Tina Hampton, Coleman Elementary; Sarah Nowak, Nike/Robertsville Elementary; Melissa Shelton, Truman Elementary; Amy Flexsenhar, Zitzman Elementary; Jeanne Diamond, Meramec Valley Middle School; 

Tracy Meyer, School Counseling Secretary, Meramec Valley Middle School; Kara Borgsmiller, Riverbend At-risk Support 6-12; Anthony James, Pacific High School; Michel Brindell, Pacific High School; and Susan Ketcherside, Pacific High School.

Their role is to ensure that the necessary curriculum, personal, social and emotional status, and individual planning for college are in place for all students.

Counselors assist students in learning the skills and attitudes necessary to be successful students and college/career ready with emphasis on decision making skill development, exploration of future education and occupational possibilities.

One group that gets special attention is middle school students, which educators believe face rapidly changing needs. Counselors pay attention to students’ self-awareness and identity, balancing demands of schoolwork with future careers and social skills.

At the high school level counselors focus on helping students develop realistic college and/or career plans based on a clear understanding of themselves and their needs, interests and skills.

High school students look to counselors for help in making smart choices and counselors can assist them in finding the right fit.

This actually starts in middle schools where all students, beginning no later than seventh grade, participate in an individual planning process designed to help in a successful transition to college, technical school, the military, or the workforce.

Counselors spend a portion of their time assisting students with curriculum.

By the time students enter high school some 30 percent of the counselor’s time is spent on individual planning to help students forge their own college or work-place preparation. On the College and Career Ready MSIP 5 Standard, the district made gains again this year, achieving 83.1 percent. However, the district wants to ensure that 100 percent of students are college and/or career ready.

Counselors place heavy emphasis on the personal pressures that may affect students’ success in school.

Counselors also deal with a host of real-life issues, such as broken families, language barriers, low self-esteem and students who simply want to drop out of high school all together.

They are armed with an array of services that can be made available to individual students facing personal challenges.

Starting in kindergarten, counselors offer anger management techniques. By fourth and fifth grade they tackle girls’ self-esteem and leadership.

Counselors keep a log and notes for each student they see on an individual basis, work with at-risk students and conflict resolution.

The district has a memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with an array of social service agencies that can help counselors and individual students and their families.

The district will spend $751,191 on counseling during the 2017-18 school year.