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School Counseling Services

Dan Cocco
Supervisor of School Counseling Services
(973) 376-1025 ext.5295

Christina Marchese
School Counselor


What is the role of an Elementary School Counselor?

Elementary school counselors are responding to today’s student needs by providing children with comprehensive and developmental school counseling programs. As stated by the American School Counseling Association, “School counselors are vital members of the education team. They help all students in the areas of academic achievement, career and social/emotional development, ensuring today's students become the productive, well-adjusted adults of tomorrow.”

All professional school counselors must have a master’s degree and meet other certification requirements as defined by each state. 


Elementary School Counselors:

  • Implement effective classroom guidance focusing on understanding self and others; coping strategies; peer relationships and effective social skills; communication, problem-solving, decision-making, conflict resolution, and study skills; career awareness and the world of work; substance education; and multicultural awareness.
  • Provide individual and small group counseling dealing with self-image and self-esteem; personal adjustment; family issues; interpersonal concerns; academic development; behavior modification; as well as peer facilitation and peer mediation.
  • Provide assessment by helping students identify their skills, abilities, achievements and interests through counseling and guidance activities and interpretation of standardized tests.
  • Work with specialized populations and needs that require special attention, such as culturally diverse populations and students of varying abilities.
  • Develop students’ career awareness as a lifelong process of forming basic values, attitudes and interests regarding their future world of work.
  • Coordinate school, community and business resources; school wide character education-related activities; and extracurricular programs which promote students’ personal growth and skill development.
  • Provide consultation with teachers, administrators, school psychologists, school social workers, and outside agencies and social services concerning the welfare of the students.
  • Make appropriate referrals for special services for students and families within the school and community.
  • Communicate and exchange information with parents/guardians by way of conferences, parent education workshops and newsletters.
  • Participate as members of the school improvement and interdisciplinary teams and work as liaisons with PTA.


Why Elementary School Counselors?

Elementary school years set the tone for developing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for our children to become healthy, productive adults. With a comprehensive developmental counseling program, counselors work as a team with school, parents and community to create a caring atmosphere whereby children’s needs are met through prevention, early identification and intervention.


Enhancing the Developmental Needs of Elementary School Students:

Elementary school is a time when students develop attitudes concerning school, self, peers, social groups, and family. It is a time when students develop decision-making, communication and life training skills, and character values.

Comprehensive developmental counseling is based on prevention, providing goals which are integrated into all aspects of children’s lives. Early identification and intervention of children’s problems are essential to change some of the current statistics regarding self-destructive behaviors. If we wait until children are in middle or high school to address these problems, we lose the opportunity to help them achieve their potential, as well as feelings of dignity and self-worth. For many children, the school counselor may be the one person who provides an atmosphere of safety, trust and positive regard.



Overview of Thelma L. Sandmeier’s School Counselor

The Thelma L. Sandmeier School Counseling Program is designed to be comprehensive and developmental, with an emphasis on prevention. This includes large group character education lessons, small group and individual counseling, and consultation with staff, parents and community.

The School Counselor, Ms. Christina Marchese, is a trained professional with a Masters' Degree in Counseling with a NJ School Counseling Certification from New Jersey City University. She also has experience in Play Therapy.  Ms. Marchese’s goal is to provide activities which enhance student’s academic/social/emotional progress by addressing issues such as conflict resolution, interpersonal relationships, bullying, and self-esteem. She also teaches the skills needed for coping in our fast-paced and ever-changing world.

The content of the character education lessons and the small group discussions reflect the needs of the children as identified by teachers, parents, counselors, and the children.


Ms. Marchese also consults with parents and teachers to address the academic, social, and emotional concerns of the child. The Counselor can provide resources and information to help address specific concerns, as well as develop strategies to improve communication and the learning environment.


Please contact the School Counseling Office if you have any questions.

(973) 376-1025 ext. 3034



Thelma L. Sandmeier School Counseling Program


Push-In Character Education Lessons:

Character education lessons are conducted monthly focusing on topics such as responsibility, conflict resolution, communication skills, respecting others’, and careers.

All topics are tentatively planned as they change based on student’s need.  


Kinful Curriculum:

The new Kinful curriculum is incorporated through Character Education Lessons. These lessons focus on social and emotional learning through hands on activities and virtual reality.  The lessons are based on different modules which reflect different social/emotional skills such as: Relationship and Self-Management skills.


Small Group/Individual Counseling Opportunities:


Newcomers Club:  Students that are new to the district or transfer within district have the opportunity to take part in this club.  The club meets for three sessions during lunch to discuss their past school and community, present school and community, and their goals for the future.


Changing Families Group:
Every year, groups are run for children of families that are experiencing separation, divorce or remarriage. The goals of the group are to give children strategies for communicating their feelings about the challenges inherent in this situation; visitation, different sets of rules, where to put their loyalties, and anger management.


Friendship Group:

The friendship group is for students that need to work on developing the social skills necessary for making and keeping friends. The goals of the group are to identify the important qualities of a friend, understand common friendship problems, and learn how to manage conflict.


"Cool" Kids Group:

The cool kids group deals with identifying causes and understanding the consequences of angry behavior.  Students learn to identify anger reduction techniques and practice alternatives to acting out.


Individual Counseling:

Individual counseling may be requested by a student, parent or teacher. The children often self-refer and ask their teacher when the best time is to leave the room to see the counselor. If a child needs mediation with another student, both will often request a session in the counseling office to brainstorm the best ways to solve the conflict between them. Outside referral is also made to parents of students that need to seek long-term intervention and support from community mental health agencies and private practitioners. 


Orientation Programs:

Orientation programs run for students transitioning from lower elementary to upper elementary and upper elementary to middle school.  Students will have the opportunity to visit their new school and ask questions about the transition.  An orientation program is also held for parents of future upper elementary and middle school students. More information about the programs will be available in the spring.


How Else Does the School Counselor Help?

School Counselors serve as the Anti-Bullying Specialists, 504 Coordinators, and are responsible for organizing/conducting I&RS meetings.


What Is I&RS?

I&RS (Intervention and Referral Services): In July 1994, the State Board of Education adopted rules to provide district boards of educations with standards for the delivery of intervention and referral services for pupils in the general education program. (NJAC 6:26, Intervention and Referral Services for General Education Pupils). These rules replace the preceding regulations that required the establishment of Intervention and Referral Services Committees (I&RS) in all public school buildings. Under this regulation, the Springfield Public Schools have established and implemented procedures for the delivery of intervention, and referral services for pupils who are experiencing difficulties in their classes and have not been determined to be in need of special education programs and services. To this end, the Springfield Public Schools have established the I&RS Committees at each school. The I&RS Committee is required to provide the following building based functions in support of intervention and referral services for general education pupils:

  • Identify pupils in need and plan and provide for appropriate intervention and/or referral services to school and community resources based on desired outcomes.
  • Identify roles and responsibilities of building staff.
  • Provide support, guidance and professional development to staff who identify and refer pupils.
  • Involve parents/guardians in the development and implementation of intervention and referral plans.
  • Coordinate access to and delivery of school services for identified pupils.
  • Coordinate the services of community based social and health provider agencies.
  • Review and assess the effectiveness of the services provided in achieving the outcomes identified in the intervention and referral plan.

At Thelma L. Sandmeier, the I&RS Committee is comprised of the Principal, School Counselor, School Nurse, Grade Level Teacher(s), AIS Teacher, Special Education Teacher,a Child Study Team member, and parent(s). 

Intervention and assistance plans may be developed to help students within the regular education program who are experiencing problems in learning, behavior, or health, that are not related t the educational process. If a referral to the child study team is made, we follow the prescribed procedures as described in NJAC 6A:14, subchapter 3, NJAC 6A:, subchapter 2, and the official policies of the Springfield Public Schools. Further information may be obtained by contacting the school principal or the Director of Special Services.


In conclusion, all of these activities and duties can make a real difference in students’ lives, improving their self-understanding and self-confidence, motivation, decision-making, goal-setting, planning and problem solving, interpersonal relationships, communication skills, respect for others and more.