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Guidance inconsistencies cause confusion

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Students have many differing ideas about the purpose of the guidance department, but they all boil down to one responsibility — ensuring that a student’s high school experience sets them up for success.

Whether or not the guidance department accomplishes this goal is in hot debate as inconsistencies between their procedures confuse students. As the school year picked up once again, many students rushed to perfect their schedules in order to have the most productive year possible. Early leave, late arrival, and the people in one’s classes are all common motivations for students to switch around their schedules.

However, some that made the trek down to guidance found that making changes to their schedules was no easy feat.

Tejan Lanser, a senior, was not able to change his schedule so that he had study halls period seven and eight. He said, “[Guidance] said I could do it so I had to go home and talk to my dad to make sure he was okay with the schedule change… so I came back the next day and then Mr Briggs [said] ‘sorry we can’t do this anymore’ because that class had apparently gone from whatever to full by the very next day even though Mr Briggs told me ‘yeah if you come back tomorrow we can make it happen.’”

Rose Romano, also a senior, faced no issues when switching her gym and humanities classes. She wished to change her schedule mostly in order to be in a class with more friends, but also so that she could aid in teaching a special education gym class.

In the guidance department policies for switching classes, however, neither of these reasons warrant switching class periods.

Ralph D’Amato, head of the guidance department, provided a copy of the department’s policy on switching classes. According to the procedure, counselors can switch class periods if there are “no schedule available for student, subject failures affecting graduation and sequence requirements, teacher change when repeating a subject previously failed with that teacher- when requested, error or conflict in schedule, summer school adjustments, physical education medicals for the year, early dismissal for Work Experience Program after all written evidence has been submitted, or additional courses when schedule permits.”

When asked why she thinks she was allowed to switch classes while others weren’t, Romano said, “Well, Ms. Ehnot was there when I wanted to switch classes and she told me that she could switch it if I wanted to be in the special ed gym class, so I feel like that was a really big part of it. But, I don’t know.”

These contradictory experiences illustrate the inconsistencies that seem to have become more pervasive within the guidance department this school year. D’Amato attributes most of the issues with scheduling to the increased population of the school. “As of yesterday, we had 1,361 students. That’s the highest our enrollment has ever been since I’ve been here for 12 years.”

However, even though the student body is much larger and classes are growing in size, it is unclear as to whether or not this is the reason that students aren’t being switched.

Aissa Bensalem, a junior, was denied entry to a class based on its size, only to later have another student switch into the same class. “Me and my friend went to guidance at the same time. I went to a guidance counselor and he went to one of them, they told me that ‘classes are full we can’t put you in a class’… but when my friend went in they put him in.”

Bensalem is not alone — many other students have reported similar events.

A freshman, who wishes to remain anonymous, attempted to switch into a different honors biology class, but was told that it was full. However, a few days later, another student, Chris Naylor, was allowed to switch into the same period.

The freshman said, “Mrs. Campbell told me that she could change my schedule. So I emailed a few days ahead on a Saturday and I was told that the class was full…but when Chris [Naylor] went down to guidance on the day of school and went to Ms. Levesque and said can you switch me [he was able to switch classes].”

Despite these students’ experiences, many are happy with the department’s performance. Brittany King, a senior, said, “I think Ms. Polaske is very nice to me and she always responds to my emails right away and follows through on things that I ask for.”

Camille Kennedy, a sophomore, recognizes both sides of the dilemma. “Everyone gets their schedules so they do their job, but I feel like it could be better, it could be smoother.”

A lack of communication between students and guidance counselors may be part of the reason why some students feel that the department isn’t effectively doing its job.

Those who attempt to meet with their guidance counselor are often met with a closed door.

Tara Hightower, a senior, struggles to contact her guidance counselor because she is so busy. “A lot of the guidance counselors, especially Ms. Polaske sometimes when I go to see her, she’s in a meeting which is unfortunate when you need to talk to your guidance counselor… and they’re not available. But I think that they need to take more time into really talking to the students and listening to what they have to say.” Though Hightower maintains a good relationship with her guidance counselor and is happy with her performance overall, the guidance department’s busy schedule often comes at the expense of the students that need their help.

The consensus among students seems to be that the guidance department needs to maintain consistency when dealing with all of its students. Jena Rabah, a junior, articulated this point well. She said, “Guidance cannot be an arbitrary process, it has to be an organized process because it’s such a central part of the school and the success of students.”

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Guidance inconsistencies cause confusion