President's Message

By Lisa Koenecke, WSCA President

It is with great PRIDE that I thank everyone for a wonderful year as your WSCA President.  Many folks had paved the way before me and I know our legacy, as a leading State Counselor Association (SCA) will continue in years to come.

This summer we started a strategic planning process under the leadership of ASCA’s own, Eric Sparks.  Below is our ENDS policy that we will be working to implement.  I encourage you to think about your role in any and all of the following ideals.

School counselors are highly qualified practitioners.

1.  School counselors are experts in the implementation of the Wisconsin Comprehensive  School Counseling Model and the American School Counselor Association National Model.
  • School counselors are thorough in applying the Ethical Standards for School Counselors.
    • School counselors are culturally competent.
    • School counselors are responsible with technology. 
  • School counselors are skilled at using data and evidence‐based practices to guide program decisions.
2.  School counselors are visionary leaders who impact the state and national agendas surrounding education and student success.
Kelly Curtis is our incoming WSCA President.  The Hudson School District should be very proud to call her one of its own.  She will take us down a data direction that will strengthen our ability to serve ALL students in their academic, personal/social and career goals.  I’m very proud to see what WSCA will do in the coming years.
Thank you, Gracias and Ua tsaug for all that you do for our profession and for Wisconsin!
Lisa Koenecke
WSCA President 2013-2014

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Topic of the Month:  Importance of Needs Assessments

Needs Indeed
Meg Plicka: WSCA Graduate Student Representative
The office is quiet, suddenly the phone rings or there is a knock at the door, a student needs to see you. In graduate school, students are taught about the importance of assessments and how assessments work. I did not really find this topic as interesting and valuable until I witnessed the need for it during her practicum hours. The needs assessment I decided to focus on for this article is how it can be utilized for a topic like Suicide Prevention. I was shown a great way to use needs assessments at my High School practicum site. During my time at this site I had the chance to lead and observe the school’s suicide prevention presentation. What happens is each semester a member of the Student Service Staff goes into a Freshman Health Class to do a two day presentation. There are three school counselors, one social worker and one school psychologist, between the five of them they divvy up the hours the classes are held. The first day’s presentations as well as activities are about depression and the difference between chronic and acute depression. The second day’s presentation is focused on Suicide, where the students watch a film about Suicide and what to do if someone they know or they themselves are talking about it.
After the film is over the students are given a sheet to fill out before they leave. The sheet has a few different questions the students need to answer. Students have to put their name on the top of the sheet. The first question the students need to answer is “I have a concern for_______.” They have three options they can circle to answer this question they are; myself, a friend or no concern. The next question students need to answer is “I need to talk to someone______.” The options they need to circle for this question are; immediately, within a week or not at all. Then the last thing the students need to fill out is if they have any addition comments or questions. There is a box for them to fill out if they do or don’t. For the first question students are allowed to circle more than one answer if they have a concern for a friend as well as themselves.
After the class is held, the student service staff gets together and looks over the forms. The forms then get separated into piles between the second question’s three responses; no concern, within a week and immediately. After those piles are made they go through the two piles that are for within a week and immediately. Depending on the student and who they have worked with in the past will depend on who follows up with them. If there are students who have worked with the Social Worker or School Psychologist, then those students will be given to the Social Worker or School Psychologist for them to follow up. The other students who don’t work with the Social Worker or School Psychologist will go to their designated School Counselor. The belief behind why it is done this way is because these students are freshman. If there is someone they have already connected with like the Social Worker or School Psychologist, then they want to keep them with that person.
After everyone has the students they need to check in with, the first step is to start with those who said they needed to see someone immediately. This process can sometimes take a few days depending on how many students circled this answer. After those students who said immediately have been seen, then they move on to the students who circled within a week. During these meetings there is a form that the student service staff member must fill out with specific questions to ask the student. One is “have you thought about committing suicide?” This question then leads to the inevitable “do you have a plan or are you planning to commit suicide?” If the student answers yes to the second question then the mandatory reporting takes place. If the student says no to the second question and yes to the first then it is up to the student service staff to see where they are at and what is going on with them. The student service staff member than assess from there what their plan of action will be and if they feel the student would be a risk to themselves. It is a tedious task and like this graduate student’s supervisor says to always consider: 
“If you make the decision to trust a student won’t harm themselves, how would you feel the next day if they did?” “Would you feel like your assessment was correct and there were no indications that they would try to harm themselves?” “If there is any doubt in your mind then you need to report it.”
These are words of wisdom I will always keep in the back of my mind as I proceed with my professional career.
What I learned from this one part of my practicum was the importance of needs assessments. People look at assessments and only think it is about intelligence and achievement. They don’t see how these assessments can be used in different ways. They don’t see how these assessments can help educators understand the needs of their students. For this school they used a needs assessment to provide help to those students who felt like they were in a bad place. It allowed the student service staff to see where the needs were and from there they could provide the help necessary to accommodate those needs. When it comes to suicide prevention and depression the quicker this can be done the better the outcome is. Who knew a needs assessment could be used to help prevent a life from being taken or a life from being attempted to be taken?

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The Importance of Initial Needs Assessments 
Liz Singer: WSCA 2014-2015 Graduate Student Representative
For school counselors, the beginning of the school year can be chaotic. New students are navigating their way through the halls, teachers are getting ready to unveil plans for a new year, and parents are saying their goodbyes as they entrust schools with their children for the new year. And in the middle of all the chaos are the school counselors, ready with their own plans for a successful year, and ready to step in to problem-solve wherever needed.
Although the beginning of the year can be a busy—and stressful—time, completing a needs assessment is an essential task for school counselors. Even the best-laid plans can fall apart if the school’s needs for that year are not considered. To do this, we must ensure that we make a sufficient effort to reach out to parents, students, and teachers to find out where their needs lie. One way to do this is through a survey, as a universal screening measure.
Find out the best way to reach parents—some rely on email the most, while other families may not have reliable internet access. Some families prefer snail mail, while other families may be in between homes. Make connections with a few parents early on and find out what they know about the community of parents at your school to make sure you are able to reach all parents. Don’t be afraid to call, text, email, or even visit parents at home to give them a survey and informally talk about what they need from the school counselor, and from the school.
Reach out to teachers early on to find out their needs and their hopes for the school year. Make connections with teachers and let them know you are here to be a colleague, and also assert your focus on students’ well being above all else. Making this initial connection with teachers, so they can have a positive first impression if you are a new face, can make an enormous difference if issues arise throughout the school year. Through the teachers, reach out to students with universal screeners to find out what their needs are at the beginning of the year. This will be crucial in order to know what needs are present for counseling groups, individual counseling, and school climate-related topics for the administration to focus on.
Assessments may be a lot of work at the beginning of the year, but doing the hard work early on will take away time and stress later on. Start off the year prepared, and the remaining months will likely go much more smoothly. And, most importantly, by truly attending to students’ needs, you will be most successful at helping individuals and improving the overall school climate—as well as asserting your crucial role as the school counselor.

DPI Corner

Course Options: A Brief Overview
Gregg Curtis, PhD; DPI School Counseling Consultant

Designed to increase students’ educational opportunities, 2013 Wisconsin Act 20, the 2013-15 biennial budget act, eliminated Part-Time Open Enrollment and, in its place, established a new program for students entitled “Course Options.” Course Options still provides a means for Wisconsin students to take courses offered by other Wisconsin school districts, but now also includes the opportunity for students to enroll in courses offered by charter schools, various institutions of higher education, and approved nonprofit organizations at no cost to the student.

Specifically, the new Course Options law allows a pupil enrolled in a public school district to take up to two courses at any time from a Wisconsin educational institution. Wisconsin educational institutions are defined under the Course Options statute as:

  • A public school in a nonresident school district;
  • the University of Wisconsin System;
  • a technical college;
  • nonprofit institutions of higher education;
  • a tribal college;
  • a charter school; and
  • a non-profit organization that has been approved by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). (DPI approval requires non-profit organizations to apply for approval and meet 20 assurances regarding the facilities, quality of the instruction, materials, and personnel licensure requirements.)
Meant to peacefully co-exist with another initiative that allows students flexibility in their education (Youth Options), the Course Options initiative is distinctly different. With its quick creation and rollout, a great number of questions have arisen regarding the use of this option for students; and the development of guidance for parents and districts continues to be a priority at DPI. The Course Options webpage contains the most up-to-date information for parents/students, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations; and new resources are being added. You can find the Course Options webpage here:
Two resources of particular note are the “Frequently Asked Questions” document
and the document that compares this new initiative and the Youth Options initiative
Both of these documents provide clarification and explanations for questions commonly posed by parents and/or educators.

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Board Member Spotlight

Anne Kieslich: WSCA Elementary Vice President Elect
Joining the board was a decision that I have never regretted.  At first, I avoided the pressuring phone calls to become involved, and now I can’t imagine ever leaving.  Serving this year as the Elementary-VP Elect has been an exciting experience.  It has been amazing to be a part of conversations about what is currently happening in the field of school counseling.  As a board member, I have become even more enthusiastic about school counseling in the state of Wisconsin and where it is headed.   Next year I am excited for a new experience professionally as I transition to working with just  5th and 6th grade students in the West Bend School District.   I hope to use the knowledge gained this year in my WSCA board position to support the implementation of a new classroom curriculum for the 5th and 6th grade student I will be working with.  I feel blessed every day to have the opportunity to work in a career I feel so passionate about.  I look forward to serving as your Elementary-VP this year. 
Carri Hale: WSCA Secondary Vice President
My journey with the WSCA board began when my dear friend and current WSCA President Lisa Koenecke talked me in to becoming the WSCA Secretary.  At my very first meeting the Secondary VP position needed filled – I loved the energy in the room so much that I volunteered to fill this position and have been lucky enough to serve for a total of three years; this has been one of the greatest experiences of my professional life.  I will always treasure the time spent surrounded by others invested in strengthening our profession throughout the state of Wisconsin.  I am a professional school counselor at Verona Area High School. When I first started at Verona, I became the English Language Learner Counselor as well as the multicultural liaison    Seven years later I no longer specifically work with these students (I have a regular slice of the alphabet), yet these first years in this position have fostered a love for advocating for social justice and equity. The best part about being a school counselor for me is working within a community to empower our youth to become all that they can be.

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Upcoming Events & Announcements

Make plans to attend WSCA's 8th annual Summer Leadership Academy on Wednesday, August 6, 2014.  This year's academy will be hosted at the Memorial Student Center on the UW-Stout campus in Menomonie.  The focus is on Data Driven Counseling with the Accountability Report (formerly SPARC-W), SLOs, and RAMP.  Instruction and work time will be provided for your choice of focus.   Click Here to Register 

Where: Memorial Student Center, UW-Stout Campus-Menomonie, WI                                                  
302 10th Ave, Menomonie, WI 64751                                                                                
When:  Wednesday, August 6, 2014 from 9:00a.m.-4:00p.m (includes lunch)  

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Continue the learning at Fall Summit, generously sponsored and hosted at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau.  The day of learning and work time will be Thursday, October 23, 2014.  Academic & Career Plans will be covered, in addition to Data Driven Counseling with the Accountability Report (formely SPARC-W)                                                                                                                     
Where:  North Central Technical College, Wausau, WI                                                                                               
1000 W. Campus Dr., Wausau, WI 54401                                                                                                                  
When: Thursday, October 23, 2014 from 9:00a.m.-4:00p.m. (includes lunch)

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Big changes for the SPARC-W

In an effort to better reflect the role of the school counselor in the SPARC-W process, and because it is sponsored by WSCA, the SPARC-W committee has decided to rename the SPARC-W document. Beginning this year, the SPARC-W will now be called the Wisconsin School Counseling Program Accountability Report, or Accountability Report for short.  Click Here to view 2013 Award Winner Data

With the name change, there will also be changes to the scoring rubric.  There will still be four sections: Principal's Comments, School Climate and Safety, Student Results and School Counseling Program Goals.  The new rubric has been released and will provide more clarity and a streamlined rating process. Click Here to view the rubric

To help serve districts pursuing an Accountability Report Award, WSCA is now offering certified training for the Accountability Report.  Certified trainers can provide a day of training with work time, along with up to two additional hours of individual consultation time per school building.  Interested parties can contact Paula Haugle at or check the website for more information.


Thank You Board Members!

Thank you also to the following distinguished board members who will be leaving the board as of June 30, 2014.  Their dedication to our profession continues to provide WSCA with vibrant and forward thinking leaders. Their list of accomplishments is too long to mention here; however, without their participation your professional organization would not exist in its current form. They have set the stage for the next set of board members.  Click Here to view contact information

Lori Peacock Mark Kuranz
Caroline Baker Gary Campbell
Carri Hale Meg Plicka
Craig Rismon Paula Gretzlock
Andrew Stendahl Susan Leadholm
Ann Fuerbringer Allison Spencer

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June 2014

In This Edition

President's Message
By Lisa Koenecke
Topic of the Month:
Importance of Needs Assessments