President's Message

By Kelly Curtis, WSCA President

All great things are in a constant state of change and improvement.  This is certainly the case with our association.  In the past several years, the WSCA board has been learning about Policy Governance as a best-practice method for managing an association, and a method adopted by ASCA as well.  This year we practiced functioning this way, with the elected board working somewhat separately from the committee chairs and others who make the “magic” happen within our association.  This year we plan to complete the transition, by hiring a part-time executive director for WSCA who will provide the link between the elected board and the committee chairs.

In April we are collecting applications for the executive director, and next month we will complete the hire, so we look forward to starting the 2015-16 school year having fully implemented policy governance for WSCA. 

Why does this matter?

The reason this structure is so important is that our elected board needs to focus on the exciting things outside of the association, which guide our profession.  Policy governance will allow the board to focus more broadly on vision and strategy rather than day-to-day operations and management of volunteers, which will become the major role of the executive director.

This executive director will maintain and grow the work we do within the association, to support the awesome volunteers who chair and serve on the committees, and better represent our members as a whole.  I look forward to this very exciting new direction for WSCA!

Topic of the Month:  Cultural Competence

Working with Families with Different SES
By: Tammi Fure: WSCA Middle School Vice President

Every day as counselors we are working with families from all social economic status (SES) backgrounds.  We work with families from poverty, middle class, and wealth.  Over the last several years the economy has affected many of our families within our schools.  Students impacted by poverty affects the way the students learn and behave.  It is important to know what we can do as educators to help all students succeed no matter what SES they come from.

There are multiple factors why people are in poverty or move out of poverty.  The first one that comes to most people’s minds would be financially, but that is not the only one as many other factors occur simultaneously.  Other factors, according to Ruby Payne (1998), which can affect whether families stay in poverty or move out could include emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, support system and/or relationships with others.  Emotional could entail being persistent when presented with difficult situations and not fall back on previous habits.  Some families have spiritual beliefs that give them reason for living, self-worth, and significance.  Education becomes a factor in whether a person can mentally and physically read, write, and be independent. Another important factor is if the family has a support system and/or relationships with others that could also be considered role models.  This may be a person or group that they can go to when they need help (i.e. encourages the student and helps them process obstacles that have arisen in their life).  In summary, poverty is not just about finances, but can be impacted by several other factors, which is why counselors and educators can be influential in a student’s life.

If we can influence a student’s life then we have the opportunity to assist the next generation to move out of poverty, so the trend of generational poverty can be changed.  Many of the families we work with are generational poverty (been in poverty for at least 2 generations).  Although, some families may be in situational poverty dues to a particular event that has occurred (i.e. loss of job, housing, illness, divorce, death, etc.). Understanding the difference is important because people in the different types of poverty approach their situations differently.  Those in situational poverty are more likely to move out of poverty versus those in generational poverty. Students who are struggling with poverty show characteristics within  the school setting such as disorganization, multiple reasons for missing work, doesn’t complete homework, emphasis is on entertainment, partially completed assignments, lacks self-control (behavior), will work in class if they have positive relationship with the teacher, doesn’t like authority, talks back to adults, etc. 

As a school we can be the difference in a student and family’s life by providing the student an education.  We can teach students about goal setting.  We can build relationships with the student and possibly become a mentor or role model.  Building the relationship lets students know we care and believe in them.  Not only should we build relationships with the students, but the families.  As we teach lessons in the classroom or in counseling sessions remember not just give middle class examples, but poverty examples, so students can make a connection with the lessons being taught. Part of the relationship building is for the student to feel safe in school.  If you hear of harassment quickly put a stop to it.  Showing the student they have specific talents (i.e. artistic, athletic, academically, etc.) that could provide an opportunity for them they were currently not aware of how to use that talent to reach a goal, teaching students about choices and rules of the middle class. Students can learn middle-class norms by watching and interacting with middle-class people. With interacting with others students learn social behavior of the middle class.  This can be done through field trips (keep inexpensive), career fairs, guest speakers because they only know what they have been exposed too.  Make sure the speakers hear the personal stories behind how the professionals have obtained their education and position. 

The number of students living and experiencing poverty has increased over the years.  The students in poverty struggle behaviorally, socially, and academically.  It is up to educational professionals to build relationships with these students.  In addition being knowledgeable of strategies and resources to help those students for their future success.
Payne, Ruby K.  (1998). A framework for understanding poverty.  TX: RFT Publishing Co.


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DPI Corner

Zero Tolerance: Tolerance Worthy?
Gregg Curtis; DPI School Counseling Consultant

National Context
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education and the Center for Safe and Responsive Schools 1, at least 75% of schools report having “zero tolerance” policies for such serious offenses as:

  • firearms (94%)
  • weapons other than firearms (91%)
  • alcohol (87%)
  • drugs (88%)
  • violence (79%)
  • tobacco (79%)
The term "zero tolerance" was initially defined as consistently enforced suspension and expulsion policies in response to weapons, drugs and violent acts in the school setting. However, in many states, zero tolerance has come to refer to school or district-wide policies that mandate pre-determined, (typically harsh) consequences or punishments (such as suspension and expulsion) for a wide degree of rule violation.
Problems with Zero Tolerance
These broad-stroke, non-discretionary zero tolerance policies are complex and costly. They represent ineffective educational practices for several reasons. Primarily, suspensions and expulsions remove students from the educational environment; an environment on which schools invest vast sums of resources to make as safe, supportive, and instructional as possible. Removal of students may set individuals already displaying antisocial behavior on an accelerated course to delinquency by putting them in a situation in which there is a lack of supervision and a greater opportunity to socialize with other deviant peers. Additionally, the lack of effective instruction experienced while under suspension or expulsion compromise learning and academic achievement; in many cases putting them progressively further behind their peers. This increasing achievement gap can marginalize students even more until they become completely disengaged.  Further, expulsion results in the denial of educational services, presenting specific legal as well as ethical dilemmas for student with disabilities. Finally, there is no evidence that removing students from school makes a positive contribution to school safety.
Other problems associated with zero tolerance policies include:2
  • Racial disproportionality: Black students receive more harsh punitive measures (suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment) and less mild discipline than their non-minority peers, even controlling for Socio-economic Status.
  • A greater negative impact on educational outcomes for students with disabilities.
  • Inconsistent application of zero tolerance policies, which often are not reserved exclusively for serious behaviors but applied indiscriminately to much lower levels of rule infraction.
  • An increasing national rate of suspensions and expulsions, even though school violence generally has been stable or declining.
  • Increasing the length of expulsion to two-year, three-year, or even permanent expulsion.
  • A high rate of repeat suspensions; which suggests suspension is ineffective in changing behavior for challenging students.
  • Elevated dropout rates related to the repeated use of suspension and expulsion

Wisconsin Context
While there is no official statutory title or provision for a zero tolerance approach, the legislature was required to adopt a mandatory expulsion law for any student in possession of a firearm on school grounds. That law was passed in 1995 and is codified in s. 120.13 Wis. Stats.  Thus, that requirement became the foundation for “zero tolerance policies” at the local level.  It remains the only “shall” or “must” expel, rather than “may”, in our state laws. 
The state adopted s. 120.13 Wis. Stats as a requirement for continued receipt of federal education funds.  This adoption mirrors the same process the federal government used in requiring all states to raise their legal drinking ages to a uniform 21 years of age.  In that case federal highway dollars were the leverage to get states to change their statutes.  So “zero tolerance policies” have their root in federal requirements under the Gun Free School Act. Once enacted, however, some districts took it upon themselves to expand the zero tolerance idea to behaviors in schools unrelated to firearm possession; including smoking, drinking, bullying, fighting, etc.
That said. In recent years many districts have moved away from the mandatory, no-discretion punishments that had been required through their local district policies for an approach that allows administrators and school boards the ability to better weigh the circumstances and the interests of both the school and the students involved. An approach more sensitive to the circumstances of the student and the level of the infraction is becoming more popular in Wisconsin.
Reflective Questions
What does your district policy say?
What is a school counselor’s role in changing ineffective policy?
How do you develop and maintain the advocacy skills necessary to initiate systemic change?
1 Safe and Responsive Schools
2 Skiba, R. (2000). Zero tolerance, zero evidence: An analysis of school disciplinary practice (Policy Research Report #SRS2). Bloomington, IN: Indiana Education Policy Center. (available at:
*** Sections of this article are modifications gleaned from information from the NASP Zero Tolerance Fact Sheet. (Available at:

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Board Member Spotlight

Katrina Eisfeldt: WSCA Technology Chair
Hi, I’m Katrina Eisfeldt, the Technology Chair Person for your WSCA Board.  Here’s how it all began…..a hug from Lisa Koenecke! 
Actually, it all began when I attended the WSCA Summer Academy one year.  While I was there, I commented numerous times, that no one was tweeting about the amazing stuff happening in our state surrounding school counseling.  As a matter of fact, I could barely find WSCA on Social Media.  After this event, I received a phone call from Lisa Koenecke asking about the possibility of serving on the WSCA board.  Just like most other school counselors, I have a hard time saying no, so here I am a couple years later writing a board member spotlight for WSCAlink!
Since that time, I have grown to love and appreciate all of the work being done behind the scenes for school counselors in the state of Wisconsin.  I enjoy the professional relationships I have made and the friendships I have formed.  I can’t imagine not being a part of such a great organization!  We have been working on keeping members informed and providing resources for school counselors via social media!  Please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest!
One of my most favorite things about being on the board is that I was able to create a WSCA Technology Committee.  Currently there are 7 people on the committee: Emily Rose, Christine Voice, Erica Bremer, Paige Waukau, Peg Zizzo, Chelsey Weierke and our newest member Eric Mueller.  If you would to join us, please let me know!
Kaila Rabideau: WSCA Professional Recognition and Scholarships Chair
5 years ago I attended my first WSCA conference as a graduate student from University of Wisconsin-Stout.  After spending two days with so many amazing individuals, and being a part of so many inspiring conversations, I knew that I had to get involved! The energy that this organization exuded guided me to become a member of the Professional Recognition and Scholarship committee. My work there led me to become the Chair of this committee.  It has been a real honor and privilege to work with the board and all of you.  THANK YOU! I look forward to our continued work together.
I have been a school counselor for 3 years. Two of those years were spent as a counselor for a virtual public high school in Wisconsin.  I am currently a counselor at Verona Area High School (Go Wildcats)!  I truly enjoy this line of work, even on the days that it’s physically and emotionally taxing.  It is my hope that the work I do with my students will encourage them to follow their hopes and dreams,  as well as prepare them for the road ahead!

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Upcoming Events & Announcements

WSCA To Hire Executive Director
Job Title:
 Wisconsin School Counselor Association Executive Director
Position Open: April 1, 2015 to April 30, 2015
Click Here for more information
Summer Leadership Academy
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
9:00 - 4:00 pm - Oshkosh, WI
CLICK HERE for more information

Fall Summit
Thursday, Oct 22, 2015
9:00 - 4:00 pm - Turtle Lake, WI
CLICK HERE for more information
  Network with Statewide School Counselors Today!
The Wisconsin School Counselor Association is excited to announce the addition of "Wisconsin SCENE" to the American School Counselor Association discussion board,
ASCA SCENE, located at 
For directions on how to use Wisconsin Scene Click Here. We hope this new tool helps enhance and support the important work you do as a school counseling professional in Wisconsin.

April 2015

President's Message
By Kelly Curtis
Topic of the Month:
Cultural Competence

Upcoming Events & Announcements