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Counselors share insights

December 19, 2012
Meg Alexander - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - The three roles of a school counselor are to assist students with their academics; their future careers; and their personal and social lives.

Appearing before Fairmont Area School Board on Tuesday were Scott Geerdes and Jenny Schwieger, the district's two high school guidance counselors, along with Ally Sylvester, an intern from Minnesota State-Mankato. They explained their various responsibilities and in doing so, provided an update on the student population in general.

Since May 2012 at the high school, 108 new students have enrolled. Unfortunately, even more have left. There is work associated with each new student and the ones who leave.

Registering a new student involves assessing their academic standing, reviewing their history and then figuring out where they fit in comparison to their peers, all of which takes about two hours time for the guidance office, according to Geerdes. If a student does not have any transcript information, then administrative assistant Mary Granheim must track down the data.

When students leave, their paperwork must be forwarded to their new school. If parents do not inform Fairmont Area of the move, additional work is involved. Legally, if students appear to be truant, the school must take action, which involves law enforcement and efforts on the school's part to locate missing students.

Student enrollment is just one aspect of counselors' jobs. Managing college transcripts is another important role, in order to assist current and former students applying to secondary education institutions.

So far this year, 275 transcripts have been sent out for seniors, and 74 transcripts for Fairmont graduates. The school only has about 130 seniors, which indicates how many schools the students are applying to enter.

The most popular choice for seniors this year has been the University of Minnesota, where 23 students have applied. Next is Minnesota State-Mankato, which has garnered 18 applications, and then South Dakota State University, with 16 applications.

Schwieger gave an overview of the counselors' annual calendar, to show the variety of work they do. Just this month, counselors have been working with seniors on their college applications and students who received multiple D's and F's on their latest report cards; they have been organizing second semester schedules and interpreting students' pre-SAT tests; they have administered the Explore Test to all eighth-graders; and already they are preparing for next school year.

"No two days are the same," Schwieger said, which is one of the reason's she says she enjoys her job.

In other business, the board unanimously agreed to sign a letter of intent with Ameresco, a company that specializes in comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for customers across the country.

The board's approval allows Ameresco to send engineers to examine the district's two school buildings, utility bills, operational procedures and upcoming capital needs. The goal is to find ways Fairmont Area can improve its energy efficiency, while looking at the costs associated with these improvements and the long-term savings. The assessment is free, and the findings should be available 30 days later.

"There is no commitment with this," said Kent Wolf, business development manager with one of Ameresco's Minnesota sites.

The board also held a Truth-in-Taxation hearing.

In September, the board decided not to raise its local property tax levy. A referendum that came before voters in November was approved, however, which ultimately raised the school's revenue by about $750,000 and prevented cuts to music, theater and sports programs. Had revenue remained flat and expenditures increased by 2.5 percent, taking inflation into account, expenses would have surpassed revenues by about $745,000, according to superintendent Joe Brown.



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