By Cecelia Ellis

Jennings County Middle School’s counseling services have earned the school recognition from the state — again.

The Indiana Department of Education designated the middle school as one of its 2017 Gold Star Schools, marking the eighth time the school has received the honor since it started in 2004. Jennings County Middle School has received the honor more than any other school.

The award signifies that a school has a comprehensive and effective counseling model, according to a Department of Education news release.

The official Gold Star School presentation will take place in November at the Indiana School Counselor Association Fall Conference.

“A school counseling department just cannot have this level of success without the full support of the school administration. That kind of support we have here from the administration is what drew me to this school in the first place,” said Lynda Phillips, chair of the school’s counseling department.

The Gold Star School award has been given about 300 elementary, middle and high schools across the state. This year, 104 schools earned the designation.

“Receiving the Gold Star School award is evidence of the collaboration it takes among educators and staff for students to be successful,” said Jennifer McCormick, Indiana superintendent of public instruction.

In order to receive the award, schools must go through a rigorous process that verifies the improvement level of student successes and achievements. The competition process for the award also verifies the time and level of interaction between students and school counselors, according to McCormick’s office.

“I think you have to give our parents a lot of credit for this, too. There are many challenges that students and their families face during the seventh and eighth grade levels. I don’t think you can successfully work through those challenges without a good framework of communication between the parents, the school administration, the counseling staff, teachers and the students,” said Jeanie Koelmel, Jennings County School Corp.’s administrative assistant for curriculum and instruction.

Phillips noted that not only has Jennings County Middle School received the award eight times, but every time the school has renewed its application for the award at the state level, it has moved on to the national level and also received the Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) award, presented by the American School Counselor Association. This year’s RAMP awards have not been announced yet.

Phillips gave much of the credit for the success of the school’s counseling department to her predecessor, Carlyle Floyd.

“Carlyle set this whole thing up for us. He first entered the school into the competition for the Gold Star School award in 2007. But, most important, he established a workable model for the JCMS counseling department. We have just kept that going,” Phillips said.