The Palo Alto Unified School District school board is looking to align the counseling systems at its two high schools.
The board gathered a team to look at existing counseling models for ideas to improve the counseling system at Gunn and Paly. According to Supt. Max McGee, the board’s goal is to identify a curriculum before Nov. 1 and implement the system for the 2017-2018 school year.
“Gunn and Paly have [had] different models for years now,” Godfrey said. “Paly has the TA [Teacher Advisor] model, and Gunn has a more traditional model where … one counselor sees a bunch of different students at a time.”
According to Godfrey, aligning the counseling models at Gunn and Paly has also given the school board the opportunity to improve the counseling system as a whole.
“The idea going forward is that principals of both Gunn and Paly are on board with reviewing both models to see if there can be improvements and ultimately the models can be closer together, and be more alike,” Godfrey said.
According to Godfrey, Gunn and Paly will most likely converge to a teacher-advisor counseling system that emphasizes conection between students and teachers.
“[It] will likely mean that the Gunn model would be more of an advisory type model,” Godfrey said. “They may not be implemented exactly the same way, and Paly might make some changes to theirs, but the ultimate goal is that we have more connections between students and adults and that [the] models become more similar.”
Paly math teacher Arne Lim was one of the first teachers who tried out the teacher-advisor program when it first started in the 1990s. He said that the biggest obstacle to expanding the system is attracting teachers to the program who are willing to take on a large number of students.
“Our system is set up to get to know our students,” Lim said. “So it does require teachers to buy into it. That’s the hard part and that’s difficult to institute. The reason why we were about to institute it back in 1990 … is because we had many fewer students back then.”
As a result, the new counseling model may take several years to implement, according to Lim.
“To institute this [teacher-advisor system] at a school instantly is really difficult to get going really well,” Lim said. “The transition period from traditional counseling system to a teacher advisor system would take three years.”
However, the school board looks forward to taking steps to improve both Gunn’s and Paly’s counseling systems, regardless of logistic difficulties.
“Ultimately, both will change in some way,” Godfrey said. “I imagine this will be a very good opportunity to make tweaks.