WOODLAND PARK, NJ - After receiving an unexpected increase in state aid last spring, one of the items the Board of Education decided to utilize funds on was to add an additional full-time guidance counselor to the district.
Previously, guidance counselor Danielle Indri split her time between Charles Olbon and Beatrice Gilmore and Kerry Mc Glame handled the needs of Memorial School. The district’s new addition, Donnamarie Scarpa Farraye, will work full-time managing the needs of Beatrice Gilmore as well as the fifth grade at Memorial School.
“This has always been my dream,” Farraye said. “I’ve always wanted to be a school counselor.”
"It’s been non-stop already,” she said about her time in the district. “Having a full-time counselor in each building allows someone to be available constantly for the students and the teachers. It’s a 100 percent benefit for the students.”
Just over two weeks in to the new school year, Farraye said she has seen some needs already within the school community, such as the need for education on family dynamics and differences and awareness of disabilities.
"The kids have all been really open and receptive with what I’ve approached them with,” she said. “Parents have been amazing so far and the support has been amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better support system that what we have here.”
The Little Falls resident, who was born and raised in Jersey City, is married and has two children, ages 14 and 17. She comes to the Woodland Park School District from Mountainside Hospital, where she worked in emergency psychiatry. Farraye is also a licensed professional counselor. BG Principal Sharon Tomback said she is thrilled to have a full-time counselor working with grades 3-5.
“The consistency and availability of Mrs. Farraye will help students and families receive the guidance and assistance they require in a more timely manner,” Tomback said. “In addition, Mrs. Farraye will be able to dedicate time to providing programs to the students in their classrooms, as well as during selected indoor recess periods. All of these programs will focus on our students' well-being and providing them will the skills necessary to feel empowered and to advocate for themselves.”
The three counselors will communicate regularly and provide students with seamless support and services. Farraye will uniquely be able to help transition an entire class from BG to Memorial, addressing the specific needs of a new middle school student and easing the workload on Mc Glame.
“These kids experience shifts in behaviors, clothing and attitudes as they get into middle school,” Farraye said. “It’s a challenge sometimes understanding the difference between the two schools.”
Over at CO, guidance counselor Danielle Indri will be in the building full-time now.
"Having a full-time guidance counselor ensures the children and teachers are getting consistent support. The guidance counselor is readily available for students to access daily if they need help with emotional or social problems," said CO Principal Giovanna Irizarry. "Having a full-time guidance counselor also allows for essential school-wide programs, that address critical self-regulation and friendship skills, to be implemented with fidelity and followed-up with on a regular basis."
Indri said that there are many benefits for the CO community now that she has the ability to be full-time at the school. She is able to be more present in the building and consistent with counseling interventions and guidance programs. "This leads to increased rapport with the students and parents," she said. "When they know me, they trust me and I am better able to help them. It also means the interventions and program have more of a lasting impact."
More so, she said that she can expand upon the guidance program by having more groups, events and teaching more classroom guidance lessons. Indri already has plans to start Rainbows groups which aim to support students who are going through grief and family changes.
"Ultimately, being full-time at Charles Olbon allows me to help my students be even more successful academically, socially, and emotionally in and outside of the classroom which is my goal as their school counselor," she said.