HANCOCK COUNTY — As state officials continue to ensure public schools further Indiana’s workforce development goals for students by providing a number of innovative solutions, officials with the Southern Hancock Community School District have signed a contract to have a Career Development Services person.
The position will give students another chance to speak to a qualified adult about the paths toward graduation and the next steps after high school.
The agreement will appease state legislators who have put into law (HB 1002) this year, a statement which requires school district officials to have a “service provider” who will meet for not less than 30 minutes with each student in the junior and senior class before the end of the 2023-24 school year.
The idea is to give students another person outside of their school counselor, parents and teachers to discuss their work goals after high school. Officials with Southern Hancock have agreed to a contract with Sandra Siddons, who is already the district’s site coordinator for the Southern Hancock Early College Program through Vincennes University.
She will meet with all juniors and seniors about their career development, individually or in a group of five or fewer students.
“For us, every junior and senior, you’re talking about 600-plus kids, so if our counselors did this, it would consume all their time,” Director of Communication and Community Outreach for Southern Hancock Schools Craig Smith said.
While officials in the Southern Hancock school district note they feel strongly about all the work-based learning they are offering, as well as advice school counselors give each student, this is something different — an extra element to make sure students are taking classes in subjects of interest and are prepping for work life after high school.
“She already does this type of thing with the students who are enrolled in our Early College Program, so her knowledge base is going to be awesome for our students,” Smith said. “When we started to brainstorm about how we were going to meet this new state-mandated expectation, who can’t be a counselor, we wanted the scope of the position to be able to help every kid understand their pathway to graduation and have a connection to that pathway.”
District officials will compensate Siddons $30 per student. The agreement officially went into service Aug. 28 and is in affect for one year.
“Our thinking is for seniors. They’ve really got to be having this conversation by first semester because by the time the second semester rolls around, they’re already in to what they need to be,” Smith said. “By second semester, they’re focused on graduation and their checklist to make sure they are ready to graduate.”
It will be up to each county school district to make sure they designate a career development person. Eastern Hancock Superintendent George Philhower noted that they have not officially earmarked anyone for the position just yet because they still have a few questions for state officials.
“We’re waiting on a little more guidance from the state on this,” Philhower said. “We are not sure if it’s supposed to be a one-time, 30-minute meeting, or if it can be accumulated over a year, or if it has to be an outside person, or can we use an internal person who may already work with students on work based learning.”
Harold Olin, Superintendent for Greenfield-Central Schools, noted that they have not hired any additional staff for that purpose and they have not yet identified the individual or professional who will conduct those student conferences at this time. It’s the same for Mt. Vernon schools where Maria Bond, the district’s communications director, noted that they have not hired anyone for that position just yet.