Mass Exodus: Five Counselors Leaving

Ms. Northart, Ms. Wood, and Ms. Olinares at the Virginia School Counseling Conference in Hampton Roads, VA.

Ms. Northart, Ms. Wood, and Ms. Olinares at the Virginia School Counseling Conference in Hampton Roads, VA.

There are many changes coming to Titan Territory next year, one of those changes being that five counselors will be leaving Dominion. Ms. Patel left for maternity leave on May 4th and the decision has not been made about if she will be returning. Ms. Northart, Ms. Olinares, and Ms. Smith will all be transferring to the counseling department at Independence High School, which is opening for the 2019-2020 school year in Ashburn. Mrs. Wood is also leaving and will be moving to Riverside High School as of next year.

The three counselors who are leaving for Independence High School expressed the difficulty in their decision to leave Dominion. Transferring to Independence comes with the challenge of opening a brand new school, something that the counselors have never done before. Ms. Smith, who has been at DHS for eleven years, said, “It’s not that I wanted to leave Dominion, it’s simply that I wanted a professional opportunity to open a new school and just have a professional challenge. I thought it would be exciting to have an opportunity to open a new school and to start a new program.”

For Ms. Northart and Ms. Smith, continuing their careers at Independence will help to shorten their commute as it is closer to their homes than Dominion is. Ms. Olinares, who has been at DHS for five years, said, “I’m ready just to learn something new and do something different.”

Mrs. Wood, who is going to Riverside, described how hard of a decision it was for her to leave Dominion, “I cried a couple of times already about it, because I love my kids so much.” Her main reason for leaving is to be closer to home so that she can be there for her son more often as he grows up. “It’s really hard for me to get back home fast enough to get my son to soccer practice and things like that, and go to his school in the middle of the day to read during his class to them.”

Since there will be five new counselors coming to the department, the current counselors are trying to do what they can to get the new staff acclimated to Dominion. Ms. Northart, who has been at DHS for six years, said, “I am hopeful that I can meet with the incoming counselor to discuss important information that they need to know prior to them beginning their position at Dominion.”

Ms. Olinares also said, “What I’ve already started doing [is], I have a spreadsheet on our counseling Google Drive, it’s called CE-G. Those are my last name situations to be aware of.” Olinares is making that spreadsheet available to the counselor who takes her place, in order to help them know how to handle certain situations. Despite that she wants students to know that they can always reach out to her. “I know that there’s students here that I have a pretty deep connection with and it’s taken a while for them to break down their walls and trust me completely. So I’ve told them, email me, talk to me. Just because I’m out of Dominion doesn’t mean I’m out of your life.”

On the other hand, Mrs. Wood, who has been at DHS for four years, is specifically focusing on making sure that her junior students have everything they need in order to graduate next year. Mrs. Wood said, “If there’s something they’re [juniors] missing I’m marking that, and I have a list of students who still need first aid and CPR requirements. We’re making a list of students to look out for and make sure they’re getting their SOL’s done.”

The counseling department is very close knit as they have been working together for many years. On account of leaving Mrs. Wood said, “I’m grateful for my time here, I had a really good time. And I love my counseling team, I love my kids, I’m going to miss everybody.”