The signs are clear: Country Day students, especially seniors, have a serious stress problem. In an Octagon poll distributed to seniors, many said that their level of day-to-day stress was 8 to 11, on a 10-point scale.
In “Search for head of school narrows to three,” (p. 1), Tucker Foehl, assistant head of school, says, “I hear of students from all grade levels going through emotional challenges. It’s not just the high-school students who are stressed out – this is something that’s really impacting our overall program.”
Stress is caused by many factors, such as busy schedules and college apps for seniors (see “So not fair! ’60s seniors could really ‘hang loose,’” p. 2), and is a perfectly normal part of life, until it becomes too much. At that point, it can interfere with students’ ability to cope with daily emotional struggles, complete work effectively and stay healthy.
Several of the candidates for next year’s headmaster position have their own ideas to reduce stress. For in- stance, candidate Adrienne Odell proposed dropping one class each day to reduce homework load, a solution that worked at her school, Shorecrest Preparatory, in Florida. Foehl, also a candidate, suggested hiring a guidance counselor
In the past, Country Day had a dedicated guidance counselor, Pam Peters. During the financial crisis of 2007-09, her position was eliminated as enrollment dropped. But as the school expands once more, we need her (or someone in the same capacity) to return.
A guidance counselor is a safe person to go to when the stress of school and life becomes too much and helps resolve conflict among students, teachers or parents. A counselor would have formal training in guidance counseling, unlike most teachers and administrators, who, while well intentioned, do not have the same education in such fields.
In short, a guidance counselor helps students cope.
Many of Country Day’s rival schools, such as St. Francis and Christian Brothers, have entire departments devoted to guidance for students, with counselors for each graduating class and a “wellness counselor,” in addition to the requisite college counselors.
Even if the budget will not allow for a full-time “wellness counselor,” a part-time counselor would be better than none. We know of at least five or six students who would have greatly benefited from help from a trained professional in the past year.
Hiring a guidance counselor will accomplish one other crucial thing: it will show current and prospective families that Country Day’s administration cares about the mental health and well-being of the student body.