Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 1 – 2020-21
Growing with Courage through Difficult Journeys, One Step at a Time
School counselors provide vital support before, during and after COVID-19
Jenny Morgan
Past President, Washington School Counselor Association and Counselor, Capital High School, Olympia SD
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture, Ensuring School Safety, Planning with Data, Improving Instruction, Engaging Families and Communities, Closing the Gap
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
This past July, many were inspired by 90-year-old Margaret Payne who climbed a mountain in the Scottish Highlands, one step at a time.
She made world news by completing an epic climb to raise $500,000 for charities during the pandemic. However, this challenging climb was not made on a literal mountain. Beginning in April, Margaret climbed a flight of stairs everyday with her cane in hand. Her goal was to complete the equivalent of climbing to the top of Scotland’s Mt. Suilven, which is approximately 2,400 feet. “I just climbed a few stairs every day until I got to the top, 282 times,” she told the Associated Press.
This feat was a personal fundraiser for the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) in gratitude for the care her husband received before he died last year. In doing so, Margaret proved that despite many challenges, mountains can still be climbed in innovative ways.
The 2020-2021 school year will be full of challenging mountains for all educators to climb with innovation as we learn to navigate through long-term distance learning or a hybrid format. Now is the time for administrators to recognize the importance and proper role of school counselors. Administrators will need to support and partner with their school counselors in order to grow comprehensive school counseling programs.
Once such challenge and potential area of growth in schools is to ensure educational and social justice for students in this time of worldwide crisis. As educators, we have an obligation to end racism and bias in our schools.
A recent document from the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), “Eliminating Racism and Bias in Schools: The School Counselor's Role,” noted that, “School counselors have a unique opportunity to be an important part of the solution. Through implementation of a school counseling program, school counselors promote equity and access for all students and make a significant impact on creating a school culture free from racism and bias. School counselors have specific training to recognize signs of racism and bias that harm students and impede our nation from reaching its potential…” (ASCA, 2020).
School counselors have access to school data that focuses on disparities and they have established personal relationships with students that help identify a need for intervention, such as: gaps in achievement, opportunity and attainment, disproportionate rates of discipline for students of color, non-participation or lack of access to or placement in rigorous curriculum, and/or lower participation in higher education opportunities.
Another resource for addressing this critical issue can be found in the July-August edition of ASCA School Counselor Magazine which has several articles speaking to the importance of our duty (ASCA, 2020). One such article, “Time to Speak Up,” acknowledges that supporting students after racial incidents and/or horrific injustices can be challenging. Author Derek Francis writes, “School counselors are called to do the social/emotional work of fighting racism…It’s also our job as school counselors to promote social justice.”
Francis indicates that we must speak up and work to effect change while promoting equity within our schools. We must also reach out to students and provide supportive spaces for them to connect with staff and other students, and we need to provide intentional learning opportunities helping students to process past and present events. Most importantly, we must work now more than ever developing comprehensive school counseling programs that will help us to level the playing field for our students.
Another challenge is to respond to the needs of students who have experienced traumatic events over the past year. School counselors are key players in promoting a trauma-sensitive environment in schools. They are in a unique position to identify students affected by traumatic events and can provide needed interventions and resources, such as the development and implementation of Multitiered System of Supports (MTSS). The American School Counselor Association has partnered with CASEL and others to create Reunite, Renew, and Thrive: Social and Emotional Learning Roadmap for Reopening School. This document emphasizes the critical need for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in our schools, indicating that our country is currently experiencing multiple extraordinary events including a global pandemic, economic crisis, and systemic racism. The document states, “…to rebuild thriving schools, we need to prioritize safe, supportive, culturally sustaining, and equitable learning environments that promote the social and emotional competencies of both students and adults…SEL offers a critical foundation for supporting students and adults in the midst of great uncertainty and stress, and a long-term path for sustaining thriving communities.” (CASEL, 2020) Administrators and school counselors will need to lead the efforts in ensuring that schools adhere to best practices in SEL, while promoting a positive learning environment for students and staff and providing resources to help support families.
We must work now more than ever developing comprehensive school counseling programs that will help us to level the playing field for our students.
The Washington School Counselor Association (WSCA) met in August to begin the discussion on how we will move forward this year supporting work for equity and social justice. Each board member and committee chair developed a work plan that incorporates the implementation of equity, advocacy, and communication within their 2020-2021 goals. Please see our association’s website for the WSCA Statement on Equity, Social Justice, and the Necessity of Systemic Change at for additional information on our position and goals for future work.
Yes, we all have mountains to climb this year with much work to do. Many are depending on their administration and school counselors. Know that you can count on WSCA to help support school counselors through their challenging journey. Upon reflection, Magaret Payne’s story encourages us to remember the importance of rising to the occasion and meeting challenges head on with courage. She gave us these words of wisdom as we march forward, “We can all scale our own mountains and make a difference at any age, one step at a time.”
Find us on
Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 1 – 2020-21