BY ATHENA FOSLER-BRAZIL, PHOTOS COURTESY OF ATHENA FOSLER-BRAZIL
The 2019-20 school year has brought with it changes in the counseling department and the return of a counseling model last used at Carmel High School ten years ago. The revisited model, which assigns students a counselor alphabetically by last name, splits up 850-plus students among the three CHS counselors: Darren Johnston, Jeff Rogers and Yesel VonRuden.
Under this model, each counselor is responsible for a much wider range of tasks than in the model used in previous years, which separated the duties of a college counselor from those of academic counselors. This year, Johnston, Rogers and VonRuden will be responsible for academic counseling, social counseling and college and career services.
According to CHS Principal Jon Lyons, evening out counselor workloads and making each position more equitable was the motivation behind this change.
“In the old model, you had two counselors responsible for the bulk of the academics and scheduling, and the one that was dedicated to college counseling, which created a pretty large imbalance with the needs for other aspects of counseling,” Lyons says.
This change comes with pros and cons: While each counselor now has the same set of responsibilities, those responsibilities are much more extensive and less specialized.
“It’s difficult to manage such a comprehensive set of needs of students,” says Johnston, who was the sole college and career counselor last year.
Since the counselors are now responsible for portions of each of the four grade levels, during college application season underclassmen and juniors may struggle to
get time with their counselor, as seniors tend to monopolize appointments for the first few months of school.
“The challenge with this model is ensuring that students have time-sensitive access to counselors,” Johnston explains.
According to Lyons, who has worked at schools with this counseling model before, the department is prepared to work around time-sensitive deadlines.
“We’re going to try to be very cognizant of the fact that seniors have a very real need at that time, and then once college app season is over, the expectation of a senior’s relationship with their counselor kind of diminishes,” says the new principal, explaining that counselors plan to reach out to underclassmen at later points throughout the year.
This change in counseling is the most recent in a series of changes in the department over the last few years, some of which were facilitated by the district decision not to rehire a counselor after former academic counselor Alison Francis left CHS in 2018.
“I have spoken with many parents regarding yet another change, and we do not understand why they can not seem to stick with a decision,” says parent Lisa Morgan, who has sent multiple children through CHS.
According to Lyons, parents like the idea of their children having one counselor all four years, a statement validated by Morgan.
“It is so important for many reasons that counselors really know their students,” Morgan says. “They can write a letter of recommendation for a student they truly know, and they can be there to support them in difficult times.”
Seniors will begin talking to their counselors about applications in the upcoming weeks, when the new changes will begin to have an impact at CHS.