WESTFIELD, NJ — Student assistance counselor Maureen Mazzarese gave an in-depth presentation on the current state of guidance and counseling in the school district at the Westfield Board of Education meeting Tuesday.
“I said it before and I’ll say it again: Westfield counselors are professional and dedicated individuals,” said Mazzarese.
Mazzarese divided her presentation into two categories — data and direction. At the elementary level there are four counselors for six schools. All elementary counselors are anti-bullying specialists and deal with student situations such as social skills, impulsivity, school phobia and grief. Among all these counselors Mazzarese said they agreed that their biggest challenge was time.
The counselors at the middle school level meet weekly, take on responsibilities for the NJASK and lead peer leadership lessons.
“They really are the souls of their buildings,” said Mazzarese.
At the high school level counselors help each student make their schedule individually, a rarity among other districts. This school year Westfield High School advised about 1,900 students make their schedules.
“Our ratios are about 205 to one, and that is wonderful,” said Mazzarese.
College readiness is a top priority for WHS counselors, she said. In the 2013-2014 school year each counselor wrote about 50 college recommendation letters, according to Mazzarese. They took students on 48 college tours and held 31 common application workshops.
All of the counselors also concurred that the most common problem students came to them with was anxiety. Anxiety was found to be brought on by a range of students being afraid to be vulnerable, from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy to not wanting to grow up, or the “Peter Pan syndrome."
“Overextension creates tension,” said Mazzarese.
At the meeting there was also a short presentation on the reorganization of grades 6-8 English Language Arts by Language Arts Supervisor Pamela Ackerman-Garcia. She described the balanced literacy approach and using a novel as a vehicle to teach students skills. By taking a humanities approach and incorporating elements of history, students learn about the government, laws and culture of the time period that plots are set in.
With regret the board announced the retirement of Kathleen Ellis, a Lincoln School special education teacher who spent the last 15 years of her over 40-year-long teaching career in the Westfield school district.
“She has been instrumental in helping students gain confidence in their literary skills,” said Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan.
The next full public board meeting will take place April 29.