School board hears counseling plan
Guidance counselors in Northampton Area School District are implementing a career-oriented track for students. The kindergarten through 12th-grade school counseling plan mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is known as the Chapter 339 Guidance Counselor Program.
Christina Thrash, Adrienne Costenbader and Jennifer Borzillo, NASD guidance counselors, and Lydia Hanner, NASD director of curriculum and instruction, made a presentation about the district’s Chapter 339 plan at the Jan. 22 NASD Board of Education meeting. Unable to attend the meeting, but participating in the plan, are Nadine Rupp and Sally Whittaker-Kahan.
The NASD plan’s mission statement is for students “to become leaders in an ever-changing world.”
“It will continue to be a work in progress,” said Thrash, NASD counseling department coordinator, during the one-hour presentation.
Thrash said NASD guidance counselors endeavor to identify, “what is that student’s spark, [which] can even begin in elementary school, that can lead to a career.”
The Chapter 339 plan is expected to put additional strain on district counseling personnel. The ratio is about 250 students to one counselor.
“In many cases, we’re well above that,” Thrash said.
“This is a lot of extra work,” NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said of the Chapter 339 plan.
Costenbader said central to the plan are postsecondary options. There won’t be a “just a college-for-all mentality.”
“There are many things we’re doing in addition to the goals,” Borzillo said.
Students use Naviance, a college and career software. According to the company, Naviance products reach more than 7 million students at nearly 8,500 schools in 100 nations.
NASD students meet with guidance counselors and review goals. Shareholders, or participants, in a student’s post-high school planning include parents, educators and business and community leaders.
A monthly program of goals is established.
“That was one of the most useful parts,” Thrash said.
There’s also a curriculum action plan.
“We will collaborate with other educators in our schools,” Thrash said.
School Director Robert Mentzell asked about the timetable for the plan.
“Beginning with this school year,” Hanner said, “we must report that we are exposing our children to careers. We will be able to report that we have met all the requirements.”
“This gave us the opportunity to reflect,” Thrash said. “It is helping us to create more focus.”
School Director James Chuss asked of the plan, “How do we know it’s doing a good job?”
“We will be questioning our alumni,” Hanner answered.
“As we continued to use this, we’ll have more and more data,” Thrash said.
NASD counselors and administrators have been working for several years on the district’s Chapter 339 plan.
Chapter 339 is named after one of the chapters in the Pennsylvania School Code, established by the state legislature and enforced by the PDE.
According to PDE’s website, school districts must guide students in establishing a career plan. Districts must provide students with information to make decisions about vocational-technical education programs and discuss high school academic achievement, secondary education and training for careers.
Chapter 339 ensures students with disabilities are not restricted in career objectives, that parents are involved in decision-making and that community agencies are involved. Districts are to provide placement services for transition from school to work. Examples of student career plans are to be provided.
There will be follow-up studies to determine the effectiveness of the curriculum.