Bernards Schools Hire New Districtwide Director of Counseling

Ridge High School, 268 S. Maple Ave., Basking Ridge. Credits: By Walter Pardo

BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Bernards Township schools have a new K-12 director of school counseling.

Stephanie Smith, who grew up in the Flemington area but has pursued her career in Virginia, will be coming back to New Jersey after the Board of Education hired her Monday night (May 21).

Smith replaces Jillian Shadis, who resigned in April to take a similar post in the New Providence district. Smith will start June 25 at an annual salary of $120,000 for the 12-month position.

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Smith returns to New Jersey from Alexandria, Va., the largest school district in the commonwealth. She worked at the city’s middle school for five years and its T.C. Williams High School (enrollment 3,800) for two.

She was born in the Flemington area and graduated from Hunterdon Central High School. Family considerations reportedly helped her reach a decision to take the Bernards job.

The Alexandria district describes her job there as “overseeing all comprehensive school counseling services for all students in grades 9 to 12, including supporting students' academic, post-secondary readiness and social and emotional wellness. This role also leads the college and career center services for all students.” 

The website says Smith served as the director of school counseling at George Washington Middle School in 2016 when the counseling team was acknowledged for its RAMP (Recognized ASCA Model Program) counseling program, a national honor from the American School Counselor Association. Prior to leading the team at George Washington, she was a school counselor. 

Bernards Superintendent Nick Markarian said Smith “pretty much knocked it out of the park” during her job interview.

 Smith earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., and a master's degree in counseling from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

 Shadis, a Bernards Township employee since 2009, said she was influenced in her move by the desire to work in a smaller school district.

Shadis was appointed director in July 2017. She was district supervisor of school counseling for the five years from July 2012 to June 2017. Prior to that, she was head counselor at Ridge High School for three years.

The school’s website describes Shadis’ responsibilities as overseeing student assistance counselors, home instruction, registration, webmaster, the high school counseling department site and coordinator for Ridge scholarships and special programs.

She participated in two public presentations in recent months. One was on the state of student mental health and the type of issues the district’s counseling department has dealt with in the last year. 

The second presentation was on the performance of 2016-17 Ridge High School students getting into college.

The district has taken an especial interest in programs and curriculum for social and emotional health throughout the school system. 

The mental health report addressed the number of student’s visits to a counselor to discuss such issues as anxiety, depression, stress or a crisis. She also reported on suicide intervention responses throughout the district.

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