George I. Sanchez Charter School
Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA)
A CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT DOCUMENT SPONSORED BY THE TEXAS SCHOOL COUNSELING ASSOCIATION
Student Services Coordinator
Amanda Martello, M.Ed.
Lead Academic Counselor/District Testing Coordinator
Matthew Rosas, M.Ed.
High School Counselor
Jessica Serna, MA
College & Career Advisor
George I. Sanchez Charter School
Category 1: The Principal's Comments
The school counseling program--or the Student Services Department as it is called here at Sanchez--is vital to the success of the students we serve. As we strive as a campus to meet the needs of our students, we use a two-fold approach by addressing their academic and socio-emotional needs.
Sanchez makes decisions by looking at as many angles as possible. The decision-making team is diverse as it consists of the Principal, Dean of Instruction, Dean of Students, and Student Services Coordinator. This structure contributes to student success and school safety.
Looking at the American School Counselor Association National Model, we feel that our school counseling model aligns, and as we continue to grow, our goal is to provide the best comprehensive counseling program to our students. The counseling department is integral to our campus, supporting one of our main goals in our Campus Improvement Plan. The counseling team supports the implementation of the SWPBIS-School Wide Positive Behavior Intervention System by offering wraparound services that support our students academically, behaviorally, and social-emotionally. The school would not be successful without such a strong team of dedicated staff.
Giselle Easton, M.Ed.
Category 2: The Sanchez School Improvement Team
The CLT's members are selected based on their role in the school and their ability to implement ideas and disseminate information back to their respective departments. The school principal ultimately has the discretion to add or remove members in collaboration with the school administrative team. Representatives are leaders of Professional Learning Communities (PLC's) on our campus.
The feedback and input drive the Student Services Department in an effort to meet the ever-changing needs of a dynamic school system. Being knowledgeable about the school's strengths and weakness allows our counseling team to effectively build supports to advocate for, educate, and serve our students, families, and staff. The CLT's voice in the conversation allows other stakeholders to understand what we are doing to impact our school community as well as how they can support our department. When all parties regularly communicate and work together toward common goals, we can affect change.
Category 3: School Climate and Safety
The school counselor's role in the School Safety Plan/Crisis Plan is two-fold. Since a school counselor is on the administration team, they have direct responsibility in some decision-making processes, assisting in training staff and implementing safety procedures. In addition, they offer support services needed after a crisis has occurred to impacted students, families, and staff. The Student Services Coordinator is responsible for assigned areas for lock-down drills and fire-drills. Furthermore, counselors collaborate in drafting school-wide communications such as letters and call outs to students, parents, staff, and community in the event of an emergency.
Example 1: Youth LEAD Jail Diversion Program
The Student Services Coordinator is the case manager for students who have been accepted into the Youth LEAD program. This program provides jail diversion as well as targeted wrap-around services for students who have committed an offense off campus. Eligibility is based on a list of infractions approved by the local district attorney's office, and referrals are made by the campus police and authorized by the school principal. We are one of two campuses nationwide chosen to pilot this program.
The role of the counseling department, specifically the case manager, is to provide weekly one-on-one counseling sessions; make referrals for substance use, anger management, or other support groups; provide off-site referrals for more intensive mental health services; provide support for families.
Example 2: Guidance Curriculum
In partnership with CrimeStoppers of Houston, we provide guidance lessons and assemblies for each grade level that are age-appropriate and relevant. For the 2018-2019 school year, the following topics are being covered:
6th Grade - beNICE (mental health overview)
7th Grade - Cyber Safety
8th Grade - Sexual Misconduct
9th Grade –Teen Dating Safety
10th Grade – Human Trafficking
11th Grade –Domestic Violence
12th Grade – Prom Safety
School-Wide Counselor Led
Drug and Alcohol Awareness (ie: Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana, Red Ribbon Week Activities)
LGBT+ Awareness (Diversity and Inclusion)
Mental Health Awareness
Example 3: The Opportunity Space (An alternative to traditional In-School Suspension)
The Opportunity Space (OPR) addresses barriers that prevent youth from performing well academically, socially, and behaviorally. Academic instruction by a certified teacher, paired with counseling interventions allow for a holistic approach to student success. Students are assigned OPR for violations of our school code of conduct. The counseling department works alongside the Dean of Students and AAMA's Prevention and Counseling Team to ensure that restorative practices and trauma-informed care are a foundation for the intervention. Students receive four hours of academic instruction, one hour of lunch, and two hours of integrative counseling.
Example 4: Implementation of Prevention, Early Detection, and Support Groups
Our school model and comprehensive school counseling program emphasize the importance of early detection and prevention. We partner with a variety of agencies that specialize in targeting specific behavioral interventions, such as Anger Management through the Harris Center and Positive Actions through Community Family Centers. Additionally, the school uses prevention programs like DiNo, which introduces students to responsible behaviors, utilizing certified prevention specialists to educate youth about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and gang involvement.
Example 5: Teacher, Student, and Parent Education
The Student Services Coordinator has been trained in the "Emotional Backpack Project" training curriculum. The Emotional Backpack Project aims to infuse mental health into school culture by providing education and advocacy services to parents, teachers, and students so that every child feels supported and able to come to school ready to learn. This project is unique in that it has elements for educators, parents, and students. Each group is addressed to fully change the culture in our schools. Disseminating information and resources is not only essential so that people know what to look for and how to access help but also because awareness helps reduce stigmatization. The modules used in this curriculum include mental health, suicide prevention, and trauma. Utilizing these toolkits will assist in creating a tolerant and understanding school culture when it comes to unhealthy behaviors that might stem from mental health or trauma.
In the graph labeled "Discipline Trends for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, 1st Quarter," a decrease in submitted and processed referrals is shown as well as a decrease in out-of-school suspensions. Last year, there were no direct counseling discipline interventions while this year, the data shows a significant number of targeted behavioral interventions that assisted in the decline of office referrals and out-of-school suspensions.
Discipline Trends for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, 1st Quarter
Category 4: Student Results
For example, last year, the counseling team noticed that there was an increase in the number of eighth graders engaging in non-suicidal self-harm. We were able to get information out to parents on warning signs and what to be on the look-out for and invite them to receive additional resources if needed; we had targeted, small-group interventions with students, made appropriate referrals for more intensive support if needed, and engaged in dialogue with teachers and staff.
The counseling team is already noticing a trend this school year of anxiety for our high school students. Not only are we noticing this trend, but we also have information that breaks it down to social anxiety paired with mental health diagnoses. By logging all of our meetings and interactions with students, we can get a clearer idea of what we can do to support student success. Each year, we strive to improve how we collect data. Last year, we started comprehensive student, parent, and staff surveys (in lieu of informal surveys). We are looking forward to collecting survey results at the end of this year to get a better idea of how students and staff think we are doing and ideas on how to improve our department. All of the work we do to ensure data is being used to guide our program relates to the Texas Standards and program goals set by our department and campus.
Goal Statement 1
Data for the goal and graph came from the PEIMS snapshot data of the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.
The primary goal for our school is academic success. Students who drop out do so likely because of barriers they are facing at school or home. Counselors have the tools and resources available to assist in these instances and provide support to students so they will graduate. These students often feel overwhelmed in different areas. The following are some of the counseling interventions used to aid in the reduction of our campus dropout rate:
- Counselors oversee the Pregnancy Related Services program that assists pregnant students and teen moms with education, counseling, and case management. Students have a strong support system at the school that includes free daycare for their children and homebound services.
- Counselors work closely with dropout prevention specialists to assist with student needs that are causing them to miss school. They also track hours that students must make up in order to meet graduation requirements. In addition, counselors often engage students in meaningful ways to make up the hours, promoting accountability (i.e. field trip to the Youth Leadership Summit).
- One counselor is also the McKinney-Vento Liasion for the campus. This counselor supports students and families with barriers such as transportation, uniforms, case management, and emotional counseling to ensure that their needs are being met at school. The counselor also makes referrals to help the family transition back into stable living conditions.
- Some counselors oversee the case management and counseling support services for our Youth LEAD Program. This initiative diverts the school-to-prison pipeline and allows second chances in lieu of expulsion so that students will remain in school.
- Counselors, in collaboration with the Dean of Students, are also responsible for identifying students who struggle with substance use. Our campus has a residential treatment facility for boys ages 13-17 as well as outpatient services for all youth. The counseling department works closely with licensed Chemical Dependency Counselors to ensure our students get the treatment needed while continuing their education at our campus.
- Finally, counselors monitor graduation plans and take into account students' needs for credit recovery courses and early graduation as well as extenuating circumstances that might cause a student to drop out if not addressed. Individualized counseling and wrap-around services are available for a variety of student needs.
Dropout Rate Comparisons for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 School Years
Goal Statement 2
Data for the goal and graph were derived from our school counselor data tracking system during the first quarters of the 2017-2018 school year and the 2018-2019 school year.
The goal was selected based on previous data that indicated a deficiency in this area as compared to Texas standards. Our department was restructured to have such a significant increase in guidance counseling. The increased amount of guidance correlated to a higher number of students being tested for college readiness, which resulted in a greater number of students enrolled in dual credit courses and applying to four-year universities.
For example, the guidance sessions listed in the spreadsheet below directly contributed to 30 of 99 seniors, 30% signing up to take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) as compared to 0% last of last year's senior class. Additionally, at this time, we have had 47 out of 99 seniors take their TSI (Texas Success Initiative) test. Last year, only 17 out of 86 students tested.
We are seeing an increase in student engagement across the board. After a visit from the University of Houston Downtown's President, we had an influx of students immediately coming to seek assistance in applying to UHD, 25 out of 99 students of the Class of 2018. Without the presence of the counseling department and the relationships we are building with the students, the culture of our school would stagnate.
The chart labeled "Guidance Activities 2018-2019 (1st Quarter)" gives examples of the activities the counseling team has done so far.
The chart labeled "Counseling Data Breakdown by Code - 1st Quarter Guidance Comparisons" shows a 533% increase in just this quarter alone. Additionally, the chart notes a 176% increase in college and career readiness that has also contributed to the increase in student engagement.
Guidance Activities 2018-2019 (1st Quarter)
Counseling Data Breakdown by Code - 1st Quarter Guidance Comparisons
Category 5: Major Achievements
- The counseling department applied for and received a Best Practices Demonstration Grant for $50,000 through Mental Health America—Center for School Behavioral Health to assist with implementation of our school-wide PBIS initiative.
- Sanchez Charter was the recipient of the Texas 21st Century Grant, Cycle 10, through the Harris County Department of Education. The grant is a three-year commitment with $125,000 awarded each year. The counseling department's wrap-around services as part of AAMA's model significantly impacted our standing in the application process.
- Sanchez Charter was chosen as the first pilot for the Community Health Choice Scholarship Program. The counseling department's individualized planning for students and attention to potential barriers allowed us to stand out among other schools who were being considered.
- Certificate of Achievement – Sanchez Charter was recognized for “dedication and commitment to improving the lives of students” during National School Counseling Week by Mental Health America.
- Bronze Level Recognition – Sanchez Charter was recognized for this distinction by Mental Health America as outlined below:
· District is a Center Collaborative member for at least one full academic year
· District is implementing 5 to 10 Center recommendations
· At least one district representative attends 60% of the Center Collaborative meetings
· At least one district representative attends 40% of the Learning Community meetings
· At least one district representative has attended an additional Center-organized event or learning opportunity
· At least 1 district staff member attends the annual Center conference
· 50% or more of district staff has received training on signs and symptoms of mental health challenges and suicide prevention
- Above and Beyond Award – Kristin Reyes, Student Services Coordinator, was presented an award for Humanitarian Efforts with Hurricane Harvey during National Women’s History Month from Texas Southern University.
- Jessica Serna, our College and Career Advisor, completed training and is now a certified Financial Coach through Central New Mexico Community College, CNM Ingenuity, Inc.
- Professional presentation by Kristin Reyes, Student Services Coordinator, at the Harris County Department of Education, Houston Area Alliance of Black School Educators on the topic of mental health.
- Leadership Role – Kristin Reyes, the Student Services Coordinator, is a member of the Campus Administrative Team. The other members include the school principal and two assistant principals.
- Kristin Reyes, the Student Services Coordinator, has been certified in Trauma and Grief Component Therapy, TGCTA, through the Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children’s Hospital. Trauma groups were not only facilitated at our main campus but also extended to our north campus as well as a local Houston ISD school that did not have adequate access to services.
- The counseling department has established an internship program and practicum site for local university interns. We host students majoring in counseling, social work, and marriage and family counseling for graduate-level practicums. This includes supervision and 100-200 clinical hours each semester.
Category 6: Community Partnerships/Resources
Community Partners - Academic Domain
While we utilize many partners, some impact our students on a greater scale than others; however, we feel as if it is important to recognize all of our partners because they all have a part in our students' successes.
Our primary academic partner is Houston Community College (HCC). They provide no-cost college courses for our high school students and paid adjunct professor positions for our qualified instructors to teach their courses, and they assist students with transitioning, starting in middle school with the Upward Bound Program for our 8th and 9th graders through dual credit and then from high school often into their system as adult learners.
Community Health Choice (CHC) is another key partner because they have piloted a program on our campus to provide 100% of tuition and fees for our students who are seeking certification programs through HCC. This program is open to students who are Community members. Community mentors students and holds monthly advising meeting for all members of their program to help them succeed in their chosen career path.
Community Health Choice
The Cristina Project
Houston Community College
Financial Aid and Advising
Familias Immigrantes Estudiantes Lucha (FIEL)
Texas Southern University - TRIO Program
University of Houston Downtown -- Houston Pre-freshman Enrichment Program
Upward Bound Summer Program
Community Partners - Career Domain
Obtaining real-world experience can be a challenge sometimes, but thanks to our community partners, our students have opportunities to get out into the community and learn from professionals.
Genesys Works is an amazing opportunity for students to apply for internships, complete a summer training program, and then get paid work during their senior year in the field of Information Technology, Engineering, or Business/Accounting for half a day on weekdays.
HCC's BridgeYear allows the careers to enter the schools, setting up four different simulation labs that allow students to get a snapshot of what it's like to work in various fields. Students are able to rotate through the simulations and get a better idea as to what they could be interested in doing. ASVAB testing is offered to all of our Juniors and Seniors so that they can find out what their career aptitudes are. Representatives come back and discuss the results with the students and have Q&A sessions so the students are even more engaged and knowledgeable about their potential career pathways.
Houston Community College BridgeYear
ASVAB Career Exploration Program
Escalera - Shell Job Shadowing
Community Family Centers, Adult Education Division
Workshops and Training
Starbucks - Interview Workshops
Community Partners - Personal/Social Domain
Partnering with community agencies allows our department to reach more youth since many of our students have barriers to engaging in services outside of school. Transportation, lack of insurance, stigma, and work schedules are just a few of the reasons that parents give for not following through with off-campus referrals. We pride ourselves on a model that provides wrap-around services for our students and families. If their psychological needs are not being met, then they often struggle academically, which could lead to dropouts or behavioral struggles, ending with suspension or even expulsion.
The Harris Center has done a great job at working with our students who suffer from anger, impulsivity, and anxiety. A clinician meets with our students once per week and conducts process groups while also teaching coping strategies and stress reduction--they even have yoga class once a month. The students have had an overwhelmingly positive response to this group.
Mental Health America should definitely be noted because they have impacted our school on many levels for students, parents, and staff. The Emotional Backpack Project, conferences and Professional Development, grant opportunities, and monthly collaboratives are just a few of the ways MHA has been a benefit to our department and campus.
Mental Health America - Center for School Behavioral Health
The Harris Center
Re:mind - Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Education, Prevention, and Early Detection
Community Family Centers - Positive Actions
Planned Parenthood - GetReal Sex Education
Houston Youth LEAD - City of Houston
Catholic Charities - Parenting Classes
Chick-fil-A - Leadership Academy
Houston Food Bank - Backpack Buddies Program
Life Houston - Formula, Diapers
University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work
St. Thomas University
The Lovett Center
University of Houston Clear Lake
Category 7: Parent Collaboration
Parents are engaged in our campus in a variety of ways. Our parent liaison hosts monthly parent engagement activities, including, but not limited to, social gatherings, workshops, training, and guest speakers. The counseling team's role is to provide the parent-facing modules for guidance. Through the use of the Emotional Backpack Curriculum, parents are informed on mental health, suicide prevention, and trauma with modules that are intended for parent audiences. Parents are surveyed to determine topics of interest or concern. For example, last year, many parents were concerned about new immigration policies and DACA. So, we hosted a special workshop on SB4 (Senate Bill 4) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
Additionally, parent meetings are held each semester in the evenings for college readiness and Financial Aid assistance. We also hold a transition meeting for our eighth-grade students' parents to inform them about what their children can expect in high school since Sanchez is a 6-12 campus. Endorsements are reviewed and parents and students can get any questions answered before signing their four-year plans.
We understand that a healthy family system is essential to promote a student's holistic well-being, so keeping families in the loop about their child's successes and barriers at school creates a trusting relationship that fosters a positive school climate. With that in mind, our school counseling program engages parents in responsive services in a variety of ways:
1) Counselors hold emergency parent meetings when a student is experiencing a crisis on campus (i.e. suicidal ideation). Additionally, parents are asked to come in to speak with counselors when students disclose self-harm or any type of abuse or neglect in which the parent is not the alleged perpetrator. We give resources to parents and follow up to ensure the parents have successfully utilized them. We also inform parents of our support services on campus, and we work together with the student to determine which referrals are most appropriate.
> Informed consents are sent home for parents to sign for all small-group counseling.
2) Walk-in family counseling is available at no cost through our licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Intern on Fridays.
3) Our Youth LEAD Jail Diversion Program offers case management and counseling for families signed up for the program.
Engaging parents in individual planning allows parents, students, and counselors to collaborate to help the students reach their academic goals. We have a unique opportunity to start working with students from 6th grade to graduation, which allows us to get to know our them and their parents very well. The following are a few ways in which we engage parents in individual planning:
1) Starting in 6th grade, we have a special orientation for new students and parents that gives an overview of what can be expected and showcases opportunities they will have in middle school and high school so they can get an idea of what pathways they might be interested in.
2) Seventh graders get a career-interest survey, and results are shared with parents to get an idea of what endorsement/clusters they might align to before choosing a graduation plan in eighth grade.
3) Eighth-grade parent meetings are held with students to help choose the best plan for them.
4) We educate ninth- and tenth-grade parents about dual credit, college readiness testing, and upcoming internship and scholarship opportunities. The counselors guide the parents as to what courses are offered on our campus as well as opportunities for off-campus coursework. Parents are invited to go on college field trips with their child if they are interested.
5) Eleventh- and twelfth-grade parents work closely with their students on Financial Aid and scholarships through workshops and individual sessions. Students who are not on track for graduation are invited to individualized meetings that outline deficiencies with plans and how to get back on track or present alternative options. Seniors who have to utilize the Individual Graduation Committee have required parent meetings to ensure they are aware of the implication of the students not passing their STAAR exams or completing their projects.
6) Counselors are also responsible for Section 504 and the individualized planning required to ensure student needs are being met. In addition, counselors are involved in the Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meetings through the Special Education Department.
Support and Communication
System support for parents is available through the workshops mentioned above, individual or family counseling and planning, and invitations to conferences and community engagement events. Our staff also advocates on behalf of the parents and act as mediators to assist them in navigating school systems, teacher conferences, discipline proceedings, special education/504 processes, and much more.
Our robust after-school program, Center for Afterschool, Summer, and Enrichment for Kids, or CASE, allows students to attend a diverse schedule of clubs and tutorials before and after school five days per week. Counselors are involved in identifying students and letting parents know the options for activities.
Communication to parents occurs through a variety of channels. Social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) have shown to be the most effective. However, we still have mailouts, callouts, and our monthly newsletter. For very important events and opportunities, we make personalized phone calls to parents.
Counseling Materials as mandated in Texas Education Code (TEC) 33.004 (b) are previewed at orientation each school year including an overview of guidance and services offered for the school year. Additionally, these materials are in a binder and held at the counseling reception center easily accessible for parents to review during school hours. Additional copies of consent forms and opt-out forms are also available.