School counselors serve as ‘first responders’ for counseling team

With May designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, the Fayetteville-Manlius School District wants to ensure that its students and families are aware of the professionals in their school buildings and across the district available to support their mental health needs. 

“We know that a student’s mental health is paramount to their personal success and overall well-being and recognize that the district plays a critical role in ensuring their mental health needs are met,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “For students to be successful in school and beyond, they need to know how to care for their mental health needs, and we are committed to educating students in this area.”

There are people in the district, and in each school building, that students and their families can connect with for mental health support. 

  • Each elementary school has a school counselor and school psychologist. 
  • Each middle school has two school counselors and a school psychologist. 
  • F-M High School has seven school counselors and a school psychologist.
  • There is one districtwide psychologist that supports all schools. 
  • Four family-school liaisons support all of the buildings: one at the elementary level, two at the middle schools and one at the high school.   

Each of the three roles—school counselor, school psychologist and family-school liaison—has an important impact on the emotional health and well-being of students. There are some areas in which services overlap, and there are some distinctions between each role as well. 

School Counselors

School counselors serve the entire student population, providing a broad range of services in the areas of academic achievement, career development and social/emotional needs. They connect and communicate with those in the student’s circle, including teachers, parents, administrators and, at times, outside support services.

A student may see a school counselor about school concerns, such as classroom-related problems, academic placement, achievement and/or scheduling. School counselors are also trained to support students who are struggling with personal issues, such as peer pressure, self-esteem, stress and anxiety, relationships, loss and separation and/or transitions.

School Psychologists

School psychologists serve students who have specific social-emotional-behavioral needs and/or medical diagnoses that hold them back from learning. The psychologists administer psychological testing, develop individualized education plans (IEPs), help with learning strategies and consult and collaborate with parents and school staff.

When appropriate, school psychologists set goals and provide individual or group counseling as prescribed on a student’s IEP or under the Educationally Related Support Services (ERSS) model.

Family-School Liaisons

Family-School Liaisons provide intensive support to those students most in need. They work directly with the whole family, sometimes at students’ homes, creating a positive, supportive relationship between home and school. They work closely with the district’s school information resource officers and special patrol officers and frequently connect families to outside agencies and support organizations as needed. 

Regardless of titles, counseling staff members seamlessly work together as a team, both within the schools and districtwide, regularly consulting with one another to support students and families.

Who to contact at school

Any student, or family member, who needs mental health support for themselves or someone else should reach out first to the student’s designated school counselor, which may be found on the district website. The school counselor, who serves as the “first responder” for the counseling team, will determine what supports are necessary and either help the student or family member themselves or refer them to another member of the counseling staff or an outside resource that would better meet the identified needs. 

“We know the need for student mental health support has significantly grown since the beginning of the pandemic,” Tice said. “We have heard from our students and their families that they want more information and help from the district, and we are having conversations about how we can better support students and their families in this area, including more communication about the services and staff we already have in place.”

Proposed budget adds more counseling staff and support

In the proposed 2022-23 school budget that residents will vote on from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 17, the district is proposing to add two family-school liaison positions and the introduction of a  coordinator/director of social-emotional learning and mental health support. That position would work directly with teachers and students in each of the six schools to provide oversight for the social-emotional curriculum and support the district’s mental health services. 

The proposed budget also includes funds to expand the district’s relationship with local mental health care provider Melissa Carman, Ph.D, LMHC. Dr. Carman’s practice provides mental, emotional, social and behavioral health services to F-M students in grades K-12.