Guidance counselors are vital to school staff

Published 1:56 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2017

To the Editor:

Editor’s note: The following message was delivered to the Southampton County Public School Board on Monday night during its public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget.

Good evening, Dr. Shannon and members of the board.

My name is Mandy Hall. I’m a resident of Southampton County. My son is in first grade at Nottoway, and my daughter finished up fifth grade there last year. I am active in the PTA, having previously served as president, and currently serve on the executive board as treasurer.

During your budget discussion, please consider funding another full-time guidance counselor position for our elementary schools. Currently, Mrs. Wendi Simmons is splitting her time between Capron and Nottoway, and neither school’s children have access to her every day of the school week. Guidance counselors are a vital part of a school staff, and each of our elementary schools deserves a full time counselor.

Forcing a guidance counselor to split her time is a disservice to our students and the teachers. They are a key part of the faculty, and wear so many hats to make the school run smoothly. They are an objective advocate for each student when it comes to emotional well-being, and serve a role that simply cannot be filled by teachers.

School counselors address the developmental needs of all students and help remove barriers in learning.

It’s very important for a distressed or anxious child to be able to say to their teacher on any given day, “I need to go talk to Mrs. Simmons.” By not having that access on certain days, the child is not in learning mode, and it’s also a distraction to the other students and the teacher.    

In your average classroom, there are probably four to five students who count on Mrs. Simmons to be there every week to talk to and problem solve about issues in their life, whether it’s a domestic situation, a learning disability, bullying, or an academic problem.

All types of students depend on her, from those with troubled home lives, to the gifted children who tend to experience anxiety issues. And the entire student body  benefits from her presence and resource time with her, during which she teaches valuable lessons on being a good citizen, using your manners, and a vast array of other social skills, coping mechanisms and academic planning. She’s a resource for the teachers and provides valuable insight to them about students’ mental and emotional health.

Guidance counselors need to be fully invested in their school, and certainly Mrs. Simmons is fully invested in both of hers.

But I can guarantee you that when she’s at one school, she’s worried about her kids at the other school, wondering if they need her today. And chances are, they do.

It’s worth the investment. Emotional well-being is paramount for a child’s capacity to learn, and full time guidance counselors are required for schools to be able to support the student body in that way. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Amanda Hall
Southampton County