Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Counselors Remember Colleague ; Kaiser's Funeral Services Slated for Monday Morning

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Counselors Remember Colleague ; Kaiser's Funeral Services Slated for Monday Morning

Article excerpt

As family, friends and co-workers prepare to gather to say goodbye to Gail Kaiser on Monday, many of her school counselor colleagues who often have to deal with student-related issues and tragedies now are left to grapple with the sudden loss of "one of their own."

"To my knowledge, this is the first time we've gone through something like this," said Jackie Van Petten, head of the counseling department at Highland Park High School. "For me, it's kind of difficult from the standpoint, we'd (she and Kaiser) worked together for 17 years."

According to school and district officials, Kaiser, 62, was found unresponsive in her car at Topeka West High School and died Tuesday. She had worked for Topeka Unified School District 501 for 41 years, the past 25 years at Topeka West with her last position as head of the counseling department.

Within the past several years, Kansas school districts have seen dwindling counseling staffs along with shrinking budgets, and USD 501 is no exception. Most of the district's buildings have reduced the number of full-time counselors and share half-positions.

Because there are fewer numbers of counselors who still have to deal with students' academic, truancy and behavioral issues, Van Petten said the district's counselors, especially at the high schools, often have to rely on each other to maximize their institutional knowledge.

"The department heads at each high school, we'll call each other and say, 'we've got this going on, how are you guys managing it, are you seeing this?' "

she said. "We work as a team even though we're not in the same building to solve problems that we're all seeing. When you have that kind of relationship with somebody that you trust and call them on the telephone, the answer you get is really how they feel about something. We spend quite a bit of time together even though we're not in the same building. …

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