Wanted: More hands on deck

Brad Wilson, Chelan High School Principal

The world into which students are graduating from high school may seem as vast as ever. But today, kids have grown up connected to people and places only a click away via the mobile computer that lives in their pocket, making experiences bigger and more intense and dealing with all of it on top of the normal challenges of being a teenager. At Chelan High School, our staff does not take lightly the responsibility to ensure students are prepared for life after high school and that they can navigate all they’re exposed to with poise and confidence. In the four years where they are under our roof, we believe an “all hands on deck” approach to what each kid needs to succeed, requires access to school counselors and the specialized services they provide. That’s why I am supporting legislation supported by the Washington School Counselors Association (WSCA) and Stand for Children Washington (Stand) that will strengthen student support by increasing the time that school counselors spend on direct counseling services for students in our schools. Further, any additional money for counselors that the state allocates must go toward hiring additional school counselors.
The transition between childhood and adulthood requires building a knowledge of all the basics that will get you through life. But as every parent knows, there are also a myriad of requirements and deadlines, each one persisting despite physical and emotional development that can be a roller coaster for kids and families alike. The presence of a caring adult, with training that is specific to managing these challenges in ways that can be customized to a student’s unique needs, is why more school counselors are needed. In Washington, there is only one counselor for every 499 students. That is a dismal ratio to report when the number of students in our schools, and the diversity of the challenges they face, expands every year.
Senate Bill 6480, sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet, deserves support because between the classroom and the front office, there is a gap that should be filled with an expert on student’s issues. SB 6480 keeps schools accountable by requiring that 80% of counselors’ time be spent in direct service to students. In other words, the school counselor cannot be enjoined to monitor the hallway when they’re really needed to monitor a student’s troubled attendance pattern, or meet with a student about an application to a technical school, or grieve with a student over a personal loss, or help another secure somewhere safe to sleep at night.     
At Chelan High School, we endeavor to ensure access to a learning environment where each student is empowered to develop his or her full potential. I believe our efforts will be stronger and better when more school counselors are part of our team. I hope you will join me in supporting SB 6480 by contacting your legislator and asking for their support. When they leave our community and enter the world, I want our kids to be prepared, to feel strong and capable and to know that they had the full support of the folks back home in all the ways they will be successful. To ensure that happens, I urge your support of SB 6480.

Brad Wilson is the principal at Chelan High School and previously served as Chelan Middle School Principal for three years. Prior to moving to Chelan with his wife and two school aged children, he worked in the Grand Coulee Dam School District for 11 years. He earned a BA in Social Studies Education with an English minor from Washington State University, a MA in Teaching and Teacher Education from the University of Arizona, and his Washington State Principal and Superintendent credentials from Washington State University

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