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FRANKLIN - Franklin High School (FHS) and its school counselors were recognized as having a "Program of Promise" by the Wisconsin School Counselor Association (WSCA) at the WSCA conference in February.

The Program of Promise award is given to school counselling programs that exhibit excellence, determined by their Wisconsin School Counseling Program Accountability Report (WSCPAR), and reflects the work of the whole counselling office.

A promising staff 

"It’s a demonstration of the commitment of our high school team to meeting the needs of all the students," said counselor Mindy Willard. "It means that our team is working collaboratively to do that."

Two Franklin Public Schools employees were also recognized by the WSCA.

FHS counseling office assistant Joyce Price received the secretarial/support staff award in recognition of her work to "support and enhance the work of the school counselor," and FPS Director of 9-12 Teaching and Learning Nick Kohn received the supervisor/administrator award for his work to "recognize those persons who have made significant contributions to the field of school counseling."

Holistic focus 

This is the first year the school received the Program of Promise award, and the first year they submitted a WSCPAR. Willard said that continuing to submit the report is one of their goals for the following years.

The WSCPAR outlines the school's counselling goals and achievements throughout the 2015-2016 school year, and the school's recognition reflects excellence in both categories. The various goals center around school climate and safety, student academic development, student career development, and student social and emotional development.

"We're really focused on the development of the whole child," said Willard, explaining that the school has started to shift toward the holistic focus like many other schools now aligning to American School Counselors Association Standards.

A large emphasis in creating these goals is also based on data to ensure the efforts are going into the correct channels and producing measurable results.

"We use data to drive our instruction," said FHS principal Susan Rach, noting that it is a focus throughout the whole school, including the counseling department. "Focusing on how we're going to use our time to meet the needs of our students in a data-driven way. It's a systematic, team approach to addressing our students' needs."

A place to learn 

While many of the goals the school made last year were focusing on academic achievement, such as reducing the number of freshman failing one or more classes from 17.9 percent to only 8.5 percent, others focused on holistically making the school experience better for students.

For example, in order to make the school a safer and more positive place to learn, FHS took on the challenge of bullying and developed an online reporting form to help students feel more comfortable reporting incidents that occur.

"We developed a reporting system so students can report when they are not feeling safe," explained counselor Katharine Reid. "It connects them to a process where we can investigate and follow up and put an end to any behaviors. We're responding to those students' needs more directly and educating them on how to handle things on their own."

Ultimately, students responded well to the form, with as many as 27 reports submitted in spring 2016, which Reid noted as a positive thing, as it does not mean that bullying has increased, but rather that more bullying is being reported, and therefore dealt with.

Schoolwide effort 

With successes like helping juniors move from "close" to "ready" levels in their ACT scores, signifying that they are ready for college-level coursework, the counselors were quick to note that meeting these goals is a schoolwide effort.

School-wide changes and collaborating with teachers to help students who are struggling are some of the major reasons for success, noted Willard.

"Classroom teachers are doing a lot in those areas to move those students from 'close' to 'ready,' (in their ACT scores)," Willard said. "It's sincerely and genuinely a team effort between the whole school, and it's the district's goal, as well."

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