The Iowa School Counselor Association (ISCA) was chartered under the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) in 1965. At that time ISCA was under the umbrella of the Iowa Counseling Association (ICA). In the mid-1990’s, there was growing dissatisfaction with this structure. ISCA had little or no say in the organization of the fall conference or program although the bulk of the ICA membership was school counselors. The ICA increasingly placed its organizational emphasis on mental health issues and therapy with little attention to the areas of concern to school counselors. School counselors could only be members of ASCA if they also joined ACA. Most of the ACA’s activities and workshops had nothing to do with school counseling and ISCA felt that we were being used only to support mental health counseling. It was becoming increasingly clear that the needs of school counselors were not being met in this continued connection with the ICA. The tension between the organizations continued to grow.
In 1999-2000, several ISCA past and present officers met in Ames and began to plan the break from ICA. This led to the Iowa Counseling Association split creating two separate organizations: The Iowa Mental Health Counseling Association and the Iowa School Counselor Association (ISCA). ISCA struggled for a number of years to gain a foothold as a viable association for the school counselors of Iowa. There was very little money for the now independent organization as dues had been collected by ICA and only a portion had come under ISCA’s control. Times were very lean. ASCA provided guidance, but not financial support. A number of Iowa school counselors emerged as leaders devoting many volunteer hours to insure that ISCA would survive. Through their dedicated efforts and support of such organizations as IACAC, ISCA began to grow and eventually thrive into the vibrant association that it is today.
There were other challenges for Iowa’s school counselors in the 1990’s. In 1994, school counselors and media specialists were removed from the Iowa Code and no longer required in Iowa schools. That year, a Republican state legislator, Steve Grubbs objected to the “influence” that school counselors exerted over students in teaching them to think for themselves and also objected to the lack of censorship by school media specialists. On the last day of the legislative season, the main task is to clean up the wording in the code and few legislators are present. During this time, the legislator removed the paragraph requiring a certified school counselor and media specialist in each school. Later when the Department of Education was reviewing the updated code, they discovered the deletion, and thought it was in error. However, the change was now official and it would take 13 years for school counselors and media specialists to be reinstated. During this time, the chair of the education committee refused to allow any legislation to reinsert the previously deleted paragraph from the Code to make it out of committee. It was during this time that Day on the Hill began (1997) to lobby for school counselors. It was only through the efforts of many dedicated ISCA leaders and other supporters of school counselors that we were returned to the Code in 2007.
The following is an article from the Sioux City Journal dated February 5, 2003 that gives one the flavor of the struggle that occurred during these years.
During the years that school counselors were out of the code, our profession suffered. The Iowa Department of Education position of School Counseling Consultant was eliminated. The number of school counselors began to decline and school counselor Education programs closed. With additional coursework, social workers and psychologists were certified as school counselors. Other positions such as social workers and school liaisons took over the roles of school counselors. Overall, the number of school counselors in Iowa schools dropped considerably during the years out of the Code, from 2,100 to 1,350.
The School Counseling Task Force, made up of K-12 school counselors, AEA consultants, and counselor educators from Drake University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa began work in January, 2007. Their three main charges were to: 1) enhance the 1999 Iowa School Counseling Framework, 2) establish a consistent and extensive public relations campaign regarding the work of school counselors, and 3) collect current data from Iowa school counselors. An important part of their work was advocating for the school counseling bill in the 2007 Iowa state legislature, the passage of which reinstated school counselors into the Iowa Code.
In 2007 the position of School Counseling Consultant at the Iowa Department of Education was also reinstated.
Section 256.11 Sec. 4, Code 2007, is amended by adding the following new subsections:Beginning July 1, 2007, each school district shall have a qualified guidance counselor who shallbe licensed by the Board of Educational Examiners under chapter 272. Each school districtshould work toward the goal of having one qualified guidance counselor for every threehundred fifty students enrolled in the school district. The state board shall establish in rule a definition of and standards for an articulated sequential kindergarten through grade twelveguidance and counseling program.
ISCA formally adopted ASCA’s Mission Statement: The mission of the Iowa School Counselor Association is to represent professional school counselors and to promote professionalism and ethical practices. (317 members)
The ISCA Conference, Iowa School Counselors - The Heart of the Core, was held at the Airport Holiday Inn, Des Moines on November 8-10, 2009 with 276 attendees. Our keynote speaker was Frank Russell, President of Geo Learning.
Communication and support was facilitated among Iowa school counselors through the addition of The Iowa Scene to the ASCA website as well as the creation of the ISCORE list serve. The ISCA Conference, Changes, Challenges, and Champions, was held at the Airport Holiday Inn, Des Moines, on November 7-9 with 317 in attendance. Keynote speakers were Dr. Mar, Grey, UNI, Impact of Demographic Changes on School Counseling, and Dr. Troyce Fisher. The Tuesday luncheon speaker was Captain Ryan Sextro. (424 members)
The Iowa Department of Education adopted the Iowa School Counseling Framework, supporting and affirming the work of school counselors in Iowa. The ISCA Conference, Come, Learn, Grow, was held at the Airport Holiday inn with 522 attending. Keynote speakers were John Littrell and Tarrell Portman. Our new Director of Education, Brad Buck, spoke at the Tuesday Luncheon. With the growth in our conference numbers, we will be looking for a new venue for the 2014 conference. (544 members)
Under the leadership of board members, Sue Schirmer and Meredith Dohmen, and with the support of ISCA and school counselors across the state of Iowa, an Evaluation Supplement of School Counselors was developed and endorsed by the DE(?). This tool can be used in conjunction with the state required teacher evaluation instrument to facilitate discussion of the school counselor’s role with administrators and other stakeholders.
The ISCA Conference, Counselor, Educator, Advocate. Supporting the Whole Child, was held at the Airport Holiday Inn, Des Moines, on November 2-4, 2014 with 630 attending. Keynote speakers were Julia Taylor and Bill Whitters, UNI. Brad Buck, Director of Education for Iowa, was the Tuesday luncheon speaker. Michelle Bruty was an ASCA Counselor of the Year Semi-finalist. Next year’s conference will be held at Prairie Meadows Conference and Convention Center, Altoona. Our Policies and Procedures, while always a work in progress, has become a workable and working document to guide future boards. It will be reviewed and updated annually.
After years of dreaming and planning, ISCA hired its first lobbyists for the legislative season. The Capitol Group, Jim Obradovich, Pete McRoberts, and Robert Mulqueen, represented the interests of ISCA and school counselors in Iowa and will help us to strategize and formulate our advocacy at the state level. Governor Terry Branstad pronounced February 2-6, 2015 as National school Counseling Week.
We also celebrated holding our annual conference at our new venue, Prairie Meadows Conference and Convention Center, Altoona. The theme was Iowa School Counselors: Putting It All Together and we had 680 in attendance. This year we partnered with ISEA in bringing Dr. Trish Hatch to speak at both an ISEA event for school counselors on Sunday as well as keynoting for the ISCA Conference on Monday presenting Miracles for the Profession of School Counseling. Tuesday’s keynote speaker was Julia Cook, Unlearning Helplessness – Motivating the Underachiever. The Tuesday luncheon allowed for both table discussion and a panel discussion by “influencers” regarding school counselor issues: Dan Smith, SAI, Lisa Bartusek, ISBA, Linda Fandel, Special Assistant for Education, Kathie Obradovich, Des Moines Register political columnist.
Teresa Keefe O’Meara was named an ASCA Counselor of the Year Semi-finalist. The IAICU stipend for ASCA Conference attendance went to Laura Gallo and Chris Wood.
This year’s Visit the Hill participation was impacted by a winter storm. On March 17th, Susan Langan, Advocacy Chair, arranged an additional “mini-Visit the Hill” with four ISCA members guided by our lobbyists meeting with a number of legislators who are key players in legislative issues of concern to school counselors.
Sue Farran attended the April Iowa ACA board meeting as a guest with the hope of our developing a more intentional working relationship with them in the future.