New Faces in Guidance

By Joseph Pennacchio

Mr. Cuddy & Ms. Safer
Photo by Jack Fischer

Mrs. Meredith Safer and Mr. Dennis Cuddy are additions to our Guidance Department in this new school year. Briarcliff High School welomes these two high experience guidance counselors as replacements for Mrs. Smith and Mr. Steinberg.

Mrs. Safer, a Cornell graduate, has several years of experience working as a guidance counselor, which includes a position at Stuyvesant High School.  Mrs. Safer went through comprehensive application process ( which included an interview with a panel of students, teachers and the guidance department) before being chosen for the position. Counselor Nathan Heltzel noted that “Everyone who is able to earn a Guidance Counselor position at Briarcliff High School really has a wealth of experience and is clearly qualified for the job. For both my selection and Mrs. Safer’s, we were chosen out of pools of nearly 500 applicants for the position.”

While the administration selected two guidance counselors in the spring, one decided not to take the position. Therefore over the summer, Mr. Cuddy was selected fill the other vacancy in the Guidance Department. He is also the Guidance Department Coordinator. Mr. Cuddy’s role here is twofold: to help his seniors go through the college application process and as the guidance department coordinator, plan and evaluate guidance department activities.  Mr. Cuddy comes to Briarcliff with over 24 years of experience as a guidance counselor. He has worked at several schools including Eastchester HS, Horace Greeley HS, Irvington HS, and Scarsdale. Prior to being a Guidance Counselor, Mr. Cuddy was a 7 grade English teacher for five years. He transitioned to a guidance counselor because he wanted to have the opportunity to have more 1-on-1 interaction with students and families. What he likes most about Briarcliff HS is that like Irvington (where he also held a temporary position as a guidance counselor), Briarcliff is a relatively small school, and being in a small school allows him to know all of your students better as a counselor.

While many students were initially concerned about the affect of new Guidance Counselors on the college admission process, the transition did not negatively impact students.. The now retired counselors wrote college recommendations for each of their former students before retiring.  In addition the transition was aided by the fact that Mr. Cuddy met with Mrs. Smith to talk about Briarcliff High School and his new students before the school year started, which he found extremely helpful.  Further, Mr. Cuddy also made an effort to meet as many of the Seniors as possible in the first few weeks of school.

This fall, there have been several changes in the Guidance Department. In addition to the arrival of Mrs. Safer and Mr. Cuddy, Mr. Muranelli now is the counselor for 30-40 sophomores and the entire Freshman Class. In the past, he had only worked as the Freshman Guidance Counselor.

Another change this year was that Junior Information Night was moved to late November from early January so that parents could be better informed about the College Admissions Process and could get a jump-start on getting their kids ready for colleges and to lower the pressure and anxiety students and parents feel about the College Admissions Process.  Also, for the first time, students were invited and strongly encouraged to attend Junior Information night so that they could learn more about the college process, Naviance, Standardized Testing, GPAs, and more. Throughout the year juniors will both be having individual conferences with their guidance counselors and meetings with the guidance counselors (the latter with their parents). These meetings may be up to 30-60 minutes (or more) in length, and the goal is to walk the parents and kids through the college admissions process. After this, parents and students will continue to meet with their guidance counselors as often as they would like (The counselors are almost always available to talk with students and/or their parents).

The TAP (Transition Advisement Program) will also be continuing this year. In the past, students would meet during their free periods once a cycle during the 3rd quarter of junior year. Since that plan wasn’t as affective as the counselors would have hoped, the program is going to take place during 4-5 academic classes over the course of the 2nd semester. Topics discussed in this program will include Resumes, College Interviews, and how to search for a colleges.

Once this spring comes around, there will be even more changes. Mr. Cuddy (who was a temporary counselor for this year) will most likely be leaving the BHS Guidance Department, and we will once again have a new guidance counselor. Even though some may worry that they will end up with a new guidance counselor who isn’t as good as the original, there is no need to worry, because “whoever is selected is typically the best out of nearly 500 applicants for the job, so whoever is hired has the necessary wealth of knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful and be a great guidance counselor.”


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