By AIDAN ARASASINGHAM and CATHY SUN
Three new counselors will open the 2016-2017 school year: Ms. Jamie Grace (Counseling Dept.), Mr. Nate Schoch (Counseling Dept.) and Ms. Hanna Addessi (Counseling Dept.), replacing Ms. Julie McIntosh, Ms. Barbara Yeager and Ms. Ashley Wolford, respectively. Ms. Yeager has moved on to a position at Irvine Unified School District, Ms. Wolford has gone to Rancho Middle School and Ms. McIntosh has gone to Mayfair High School in Lakewood. Ms. Ann Jacobson (Counseling Dept.) and Ms. Angelique Strausheim (Counseling Dept.) will become co-Head Counselors.
Although Ms. Strausheim is not leaving UHS, she will be on maternity leave until November 21. The substitute counselor for Ms. Strausheim has yet to be determined.
The three new counselors were selected by a panel of former and current counselors as well as administrators, including Ms. Jacobson, Ms. Yeager and Dr. Kevin Astor (Admin). Mr. Schoch has more than eleven years of experience being a counselor, while Ms. Grace and Ms. Addessi have relatively less experience.
In the past year, UHS has seen several high-level administrators, counselors and department chairs leave for positions elsewhere. For example, former Assistant Principals Amy Paulsen and Michael Georgino left their positions at UHS for positions at Portola High School and Jeffery Trail Middle School, respectively.
For many students and parents, the recent departures can be seen as a loss of institutional experience. However, many counselors see it differently.
“What we lose in terms of experience and what happened in the past, we gain in terms of students better connecting to their counselors, and feeling like they have a source of support,” Mr. Ryan Itchon (Counseling Dept.) said. Itchon himself had been a new counselor when he joined UHS in the 2015-16 school year.
The short timeframe that new counselors had to be chosen was a large hurdle for the counseling department and administration to overcome.
“It was a little scary until we started the hiring process,” Jacobson said. “However, I’m really happy with the people we have – they’re super positive, willing to work with students, and they love kids – so I really don’t think it’s going to be that big of an impact.”
The three departing counselors “were awesome and very knowledgeable, and will be hard to replace,” Itchon said. “However, we are very excited about the new counselors coming in, and they’ve hit the ground running.”
Mr. Schoch, Ms. Grace, and Ms. Addessi have all been present over the summer preparing for the new year. In addition, Ms. Yeager, Ms. Wolford, and Ms. McIntosh have all left notes and information about their seniors for the new counselors to aid in the transition. Ms. Strausheim has also prepared notes for her substitute until November, and remains in contact with the counseling department.
Despite this, many seniors are still worried about the transition.
“I feel like it would have helped if Mrs. Yeager still did our college recommendations because I felt so comfortable with her and could talk to her about personal things,” Vicki Chen (Sr.) said, who has had Ms. Yeager as her counselor for the past three years. “I don’t know my new counselor at all, there is no connection, and almost no time to get to know them personally.”
The counseling department is confident that the change will not have a significantly negative effect on seniors.
“I would say [the departure of three counselors will] not [impact students] nearly as much as students think it would impact them,” Itchon said. “We utilize those letters of recommendation packets to learn more about their activities and what makes them stand out … [so that we can] write personalized letter of recommendations.”
“Honestly, the [recommendation] letter is a small piece [of the puzzle], just reconfirming your resume,” Jacobson said. “We are able to talk more about [more things] in your senior meeting as well as in the essay portion of your packet.”
Ms. McIntosh, one of the three departing counselors, is also reassured UHS students that they are in good hands with the counseling staff and administration change.
“[The school has] hired extremely high quality, capable, enthusiastic and caring counselors and a very experienced assistant principal who will quickly and seamlessly adjust,” McIntosh said.
Some also believe that with more young counselors moving into UHS, the students may in fact gain benefits.
“We’re fortunate because we have such a young staff here,” Itchon said. “Because we’re closer in age to you, we can relate to you more. We are excited for any possible changes we can make to support students better.”
“Younger counselors may help with the intimidation factor,” Jacobson said. “They’re [also] bringing in new ideas from different places.”
All three new counselors have received IUSD emails and are able to take any student questions. Mr. Schoch’s email is email@example.com, Ms. Grace’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org and Ms. Addessi’s email is email@example.com.