Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors as Program Leaders: Applying Leadership Contexts to School Counseling

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors as Program Leaders: Applying Leadership Contexts to School Counseling

Article excerpt

As a profession, school counseling is experiencing a paradigm shift from ancillary service provider to full partner in the education process (Johnson, 2000). As school counselors struggle with divergent demands (Burnham & Jackson, 2000) and divergent definitions of their professional roles (Herr, 2002), a consistent message is that school counselors must become leaders of their programs, advocates for counseling and for students, and representatives of the profession (Dahir, 2001; Gysbers & Henderson, 2001).

As leaders of school counseling programs, school counselors have a role in addressing the problems of today's schools. Various authors have identified the need for school counselors to lead in program design and advocacy (Baker, 2000; Hatch & Bowers, 2002; Herr, 2001), to become involved in school reform (Adelman & Taylor, 2002; Bemak, 2000), and to accept certain organizational roles in the school (Clark & Stone, 2000a, 2000b). In looking to improve the educational experience for students, school counselors need to lead in multicultural awareness efforts, pupil assistance committees, mentoring programs, student leadership development, connection with external constituencies, and political activism (Clark & Stone). School counselors also need to be leaders in championing healthy choices, respect for students and families, social justice, healthy environments for schools, and most of all, the development of students and families (Cole & Ryan, 1997; Kurpius & Rozecki, 1992; Smaby & Daugherty, 1995).

The need for school counselors to become leaders has also become evident as the profession examines problems of school counseling programs such as the erosion of counselor time devoted to students and the intrusion of administrative tasks into the counseling agenda (Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Gibson, 1990; Hutchinson & Bottorff, 1986; O'Dell & Rak, 1996; Partin, 1993; Wiggins & Moody, 1987). Specifically, O'Dell and Rak found that a lack of leadership (defined as poorly conceptualized, poorly communicated, and poorly administered programs) resulted in school counseling programs being labeled ineffective by teachers and administrators. These problems in school counseling programs have led the Education Trust (2001) to charge that large numbers of practicing school counselors are functioning as highly paid clerical staff and quasi administrators, and to promote the transformation of school counseling.

This transformation starts with effective leadership by the school counselor (House & Hayes, 2002). According to Hughey (2001), "Effective leadership is important for professional school counselors and necessary for active involvement in school reform efforts" (p. ii). Effective leadership is evident when there is strong counselor commitment to organize the program around student competencies and when the counselor's time is devoted to the design, implementation, and accounting for a comprehensive school counseling program (House & Hayes; O'Dell & Rak, 1996).

There have been efforts to give school counselors direction in the development of leadership over school counseling programs. Gysbers and Henderson (2000) discussed the process of designing and leading a guidance program, and VanZandt and Hayslip (2001) presented a process of leadership that outlined task-approach skills (attitudes toward rules, problem-solving styles, deadline awareness, work assignments, and interpersonal relations).

If school counselors are to be leaders of school counseling programs and transformation efforts, understanding the contexts in which leadership occurs (Bolman & Deal, 1997), the activities involved in each context, and the skills required for those activities can be a way of conceptualizing and applying effective leadership of school counseling programs. The purposes of this article are to discuss leadership contexts as they apply to school counseling, to outline the activities and skills of each leadership context specific to school counseling, and to provide an example of this holistic view of leadership as used by a school counselor. …

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