One of our longtime employees at the American Counseling Association recently reflected that we talk about team, but his perception was that ACA is really about family. He said that people can leave a team, or be asked to leave, but they are still part of the ACA family. That is our culture. I see it here on staff as well as in the relationships, networking and support that many of you provide to one another.
This brings me to an action that the ACA Governing Council took earlier this year when it mutually agreed with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) that both groups should be recognized as two independent organizations (up until that time, ASCA had been a division of ACA). The board referred to this as a “new collaborative relationship,” and we continue to work with ASCA on issues of common concern. The decision was made after a number of years in which ASCA had been building its own set of resources, had its own staff and was no longer located in the ACA headquarters. The decision simply codified what had been happening for more than 15 years.
The decision by our board was a move based on efficiency and organizational structure. In no way did it have to do with a philosophical or professional “break” with school counselors. In fact, ACA continues to be a home for professional school counselors and school counselor educators. Among school counselors who identify as mental health professionals working in school settings, their home is clearly in ACA, just as it has been since the organization’s founding in 1952.
After the decision was made to recognize ASCA as an independent organization, Gerard Lawson, then the president of ACA, created a School Counselor Advisory Group composed mainly of practicing school counselors who work with K-12 students, but also a cadre of those who prepare graduate students to work in school settings. This advisory group, co-chaired by Kat Coy, a Tennessee school counselor, and Eli Zambrano, a counselor educator at the University of Texas at San Antonio, worked diligently to provide the Governing Council with a set of recommendations that was presented at the board meeting this past July.
The board was very clear that it wanted the ACA staff to begin working to ensure that school counselors who are current members of ACA know that their home is still with us. The board also wants us to look at the best ways to attract and recruit other school counselors who might realize that their best professional alignment is with ACA.
I am pleased to report that the ACA staff is working on a number of items that the advisory committee and the Governing Council discussed. We will continue to roll out resources and information throughout the coming year. We want to ensure that professional school counselors whose identities include being a mental health professional working in a school setting understand that ACA will continue to advocate on their behalf at the local, state and national levels.
We realize that professional school counselors have very different schedules than do our members who work as counselor educators or in private practice. Our goal is to ensure that what we develop for our school counselor members meets their professional needs and is done within the framework of their work and schedules.
Professional school counselors are not, and should not be considered as, ancillary to the life of a school. Rather, given what we have witnessed in this country over the past several years, I think it is safe to say that professional school counselors are key players in the lives of their students. From addressing social-emotional issues with students and helping them to achieve academic and career success to understanding the benefits of being able to work with diverse groups of people, school counselors make the communities in which they work better and safer places.
ACA continues to support professional school counselors. In addition, we reiterate our commitment to advocate on behalf of these important individuals in the social and public policy arenas. If you are a professional school counselor or school counselor educator, I hope you will share your thoughts and ideas with me concerning how ACA can do an even better job in these endeavors.