Focus: Planning for the Unknown
June 9, 2020
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WEEKLY FOCUS: Planning for the Unknown

During this time of the year, the excitement of celebrating students who are graduating from high school or promoting from elementary or middle school balances with the planning that begins for the next school year. It's a time to reflect on your work and look for opportunities to improve and strengthen your practice. When I ask school counselors, administrators, and district leaders what planning for the fall 2020 school year looks like, the answers are all the same: it's unknown.
With the California Department of Education releasing guidance on the reopening of schools on Monday, districts and site leaders can now begin taking steps to plan for the next school year. California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond presented the document, stating that it will serve as a road map for school districts as they prepare for the return to classes. With recommendations for scheduling options that enforce social distancing to meet state health regulations and requirements, the one known factor in this is that schools will look different.
As the school year ends, this will be my last weekly newsletter for 2019-20. What started as a quick way to send out communication and resources to support school counselors through the COVID-19 pandemic, turned into a platform to raise our voices and ensure that we as a collective were pursuing equity in our practice for all students. I have been reminded of the important work that we as school counselors and leaders must do to implement change in our educational system, and why it is critical that we put a strong focus on reaching and supporting our most vulnerable and underserved students.

As we think about next year and plan for the unknown, we have a lot to consider, especially as it relates to social-emotional supports, mental health needs, and addressing racism and equity in our schools. Your voice is important and needs to be at the table to advocate.

Tanya Bulette, Counseling Coordinator
San Diego County Office of Education
New Resource: The School Counselor's Role in Student Mental Health

As we know, the mental health and well-being of our students is at the forefront for educators at this critical time in our country. We also know that school counselors are well equipped and able to support student mental health by providing prevention and intervention strategies that meet the needs of students within a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) continuum of support (universal, supplemental and intensified).  
That role has not always been clear for others to understand. To clarify and amplify our position, the County Office of Education Leadership for School Counselors (COELSC) has partnered with the California Association of School Counselors (CASC) and Hatching Results to develop a document that can be used to help administrators, teachers, students, and families understand the role of school counselors in supporting student mental health within the MTSS framework. This work also illuminates the partnerships that school counselors establish with fellow educators and community resources to ensure student needs are addressed in a timely and appropriate manner.  

As you begin to plan for reopening schools, use this document to explain your role as school counselors around the supports that can be provided around mental health.
School Counselor COVID-19 Survey

School counselors nationwide have worked hard to revise their programs to meet students' needs due to COVID-19. As the school year comes to a close Hatching Results is looking to collect baseline data on current perceptions among school counselors and administrators on the needs and challenges facing today's school counselors.

You are asked to complete this School Counselor COVID-19 Survey and help support school counseling programs statewide and nationally. To help protect your confidentiality, you are not required to write your name anywhere on this document, unless you so choose.
Proactive Counseling: Turning Awareness Into Action

Wednesday, June 10
9 a.m.

Due to the overwhelmingly positive response received from the first webcast, Proactive Counseling in the Aftermath of Major Racial Incidents, the panel has graciously agreed to participate in a follow-up session to share tools and tactics to make actionable change around the following topics:

  • Appropriate versus inappropriate ways to be an advocate
  • What to say and what not to say about racism
  • How to initiate tough conversations about racism
  • How to advocate without allies
  • What you should expect from your administration

Explore the links below if you missed the first webinar:
Dear Class of 2020
Michelle Obama's 2020 Commencement Address:
Dear Class Of 2020

"We shouldn't feel hopeless, just the opposite, because what we finally do have is focus. We see what's happening in stark relief. We see how these inequalities are playing out on our streets. And it's not just the communities most affected by these challenges that see it now. It's folks all across the country who for too long have had the luxury and privilege of looking away. We all have no choice but to see what has been staring us in the face for years, for centuries. So, how will we respond?" - Michelle Obama

With commencements and graduations across the country cancelled, Former First Lady Michelle Obama and her Reach Higher initiative teamed up with YouTube to celebrate students reaching this major milestone. Dear Class of 2020 is a virtual commencement celebration that brings together inspirational leaders, artists, and creators to recognize graduates, their families, and their communities.
Nancy Castro-Nieto
School Counselor Spotlight: Nancy Castro-Nieto Retires

By Liliana Silva, COSA
Sweetwater Union High School District

Almost a year ago, on July 17, 2019, Liz Murray, a teacher, motivational speaker and advocate for students experiencing homelessness was a keynote speaker for Sweetwater Union High School District’s all staff professional development. That day, she said, “It’s not a question of will you or won’t you make a difference. It’s what kind of difference will you make.” Throughout her 33 years as a counselor of Sweetwater Union High School District, Nancy Castro Nieto has made positive, life-changing differences for students, parents, staff and community. Nancy believes that no work is too great or too small; that all things are accomplished as we speak less and do more and each person has something to contribute; and together, anything is possible.

Those in the Sweetwater community know Nancy to be kind-hearted, positive, and a champion of students. She always goes the extra mile to bring additional services and resources to the South Bay. She started her career as a school counselor at Southwest High School and then moved to Eastlake High School. She encouraged her students to look beyond high school and guided them to their post secondary plans. Nancy’s work as a school counselor transcended academics. Before social-emotional learning became the latest trend in education, Nancy understood that students’ social-emotional well-being is critical to their learning. She also believed culture and traditions are significant in students’ development. She was a mentor of Filipino American students who were involved in the Filipino American student organizations at her schools. 

Ten years ago, Nancy became the district counselor in the College and Career Readiness Office for SUHSD. Through her work with Compact for Success and SDSU, Southwestern College, EOP, CTE, school counselors, and administrators she shifted the culture so that a broader, more diverse group of students began to see college as a viable and attainable option, regardless of race or class. She worked on coordinating district-wide programs, such as college fairs, PSAT coordination, financial aid nights, College Making It Happen, college visits, and Compact for Success. The district-wide coordination and her leadership involvement in Sweetwater Counseling and Guidance Association, have made the roles of school counselors more impactful, visible, and significant. 

The Sweetwater community, school counselors, teachers, administrators and partnering agencies will miss Nancy tremendously. We thank her for being student-centered and pushing the school counseling profession forward. In her humble way, she has powerfully advocated and legitimized the calling for school counseling. 
Congratulations to our School Counselors of the Year!

San Diego County School Counselors of the Year
  • High School: Lysabeth Luansing-Garcia, Sweetwater High School, SUHSD
  • K-8 Schools: Edward Gigliotti, Pepper Drive School, Santee School District

San Diego Unified School Counselors of the Year:
  • High School: Kristen Salehi, La Jolla High School
  • Middle School: Lori Watkins, Knox Middle School
  • Elementary: Robyn Ericson, Wegeforth Elementary and Spreckels Elementary
  • Field Work Student: Andrea Frost, San Diego High School

Grossmont Union High School District Counselor of the Year:
  • Rebecca Vargas-Wilson, Grossmont High School 

Sweetwater Union High School District Counselor of the Year:
  • Kristen Ereno, Eastlake High School
NSCI Photo
New School Counselor Institute Cohort

The 2019-20 New School Counselor Institute had it's last meeting by Zoom on May 29. Although it was not the ending we had hoped for, this group made up of new school counselors, who have only been employed at their schools for a few months up to two years, shared ways that they were shifting their practice through distance learning and implementing new and creative ways to support students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. School counselors from Cajon Valley Union School District, Grossmont Union High School District, San Diego Unified School District, Oceanside Unified School District, and Fontana Unified School District, participated in this year's program which included six monthly sessions on various topics and attendance to the 2020 San Diego School Counselor Conference.
San Diego School Counselor Con 2020

On March 9, four days before the stay-at-home order was enforced, over 400 school counselors gathered together at the 5th annual San Diego School Counselor Conference. It was a great day of professional learning with dozens of workshops and exhibitors. We also celebrated the county's first School Counselor of the Year awards and the first FAFSA/CADAA Challenge winners. The event was topped off with an inspirational keynote speech by Terri Tchorzynski, 2017 National School Counselor of the Year.

Our event was marketed as a conference for school counselors by school counselors and it would not have been a success without our presenters, who took the time to create presentations and share best practices and resources. If you were not able to attend the conference, or you attended and missed a workshop, below are links to many presentations, including the keynote speech.

Keynote Presentation:
  • Superpowers for Student Success
  • Terri Tchorzynski, Assistant Director of Professional Development, Hatching Results, 2017 National School Counselor of the Year

Conference Presentations:
Learning Opportunities

SDCOE Mental Health in Schools Collaborative Ad Hoc Zoom Meeting
Friday, June 12
9 to 10:30 a.m.

The San Diego County Office of Education Student Wellness and Positive School Climate unit will host an Ad Hoc Zoom Meeting for the Mental Health in Schools Collaborative. Join us to strengthen the mental health supports for all students. We invite school administrators, social workers, counselors, and other support staff to discuss mental health and wellness supports for students.

June 29 to July 2

Registration is now open for  ASCA@Home, a one-of-a-kind professional learning event. Using best-in-class technology, ASCA@Home will deliver an entirely new experience that will leave you energized, informed, and even more prepared to help all students succeed.
Attendees will choose from 84 sessions, which you can stream straight to your desktop, phone, or other device. Watch live and return later to view sessions on-demand in time slots you missed. ASCA@Home also includes keynote addresses from Johnnetta Cole, former president of Spelman College, and neuroscientist John Medina. You'll also enjoy special events, including virtual happy hours and an interactive exhibit hall.

What's included in your registration:
  • 84 informative breakout sessions (live and on-demand)
  • Two exciting keynotes
  • More than six continuing education units (CEUs)/60 contact hours (graduate credit available for additional fee)
  • Interactive exhibit hall where you can meet one-on-one with exhibitors
  • ASCA@Home T-shirt
  • Fun events
  • After ASCA@Home is done, ASCA Summer Camps on the ASCA National Model, RAMP, school counselor preparation programs, and more

ASCA@Home rates:
  • Members: $179
  • Delegates, student members, presenters, retired members: $149
  • Nonmembers: $299

If you have questions, please email

College Board 2020 Counselor Summer Institute
Aug. 4 to 7

T  he 2020 Counselor Summer Institute is a free event through the College Board. Workshops will be led by K-12 and higher educational leaders to provide professional development to school counselors around the college admissions process.

All attendees are eligible for CEU credits after completing a short quiz at the conclusion of each event. You can register for all events to gain access to the recordings for viewing at times that may be more convenient.

Save the Date: 2020 SoCal CASC Conference
CASC's 20th annual state conference will be held Oct. 29 and 30 in Riverside. This is tentatively scheduled as a virtual conference. Registration will open soon.
Newsletter Archive and Resources
The weekly newsletter and resources created by the SDCOE have been posted on the SDCOE COVID-19 website on the "Resources for School Counselor and School Social Workers" tab under "District Resources."

The following communication tools and resource guides have been created for districts and school sites to distribute and use:

Important websites for school counselors:

Stay Connected
If you have any questions or comments on the San Diego County School Counselor Network newsletter, please contact Tanya Bulette, counseling coordinator, at .
Get up-to-the-minute information about what's happening at SDCOE and in our districts across the county.