Introducing Wheatley’s New Head of Guidance: Mr. O’Brien

When one thinks of the guidance office at Wheatley, they immediately think of classes and schedules. Our guidance counselors do so much for students behind the scenes that we don’t stop to consider. Our counselors are here to lend a helping hand when a student is struggling with family life, school life, or any other issue. For example, Mrs. Schacter runs a peer tutoring service that pairs students with upperclassmen who can give one-on-one tutoring to any student in need. This service allows students to receive the help they need, create bonds between upperclassmen and younger students, and gain volunteer hours. Our guidance counselors also help seniors with their college applications, as they send in transcripts, recommendation letters, and other supplemental information to the colleges they’re applying to. The doors to our counselors’ offices are always open if a student needs help. Students are assigned a guidance counselor when they enter Wheatley, based on their last name. This helps families as siblings have the same counselor and they already have an established rapport. This year, the Wheatley School welcomed a new head of guidance, Mr. O’Brien. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. O’Brien on his transition to our school.  

Before coming into the Wheatley School, Mr. O’Brien had some closing statements about his old school and its similarities to Wheatley. “Before I came, I was assistant principal at Deer Park High School and it was bigger; there were almost as many kids in the high school as there are in the whole district of East Williston. They are similar as both were full of kids who wanted to learn and were excited to learn.” As he transitioned from Deer Park to Wheatley, he found that “the staff, students and families have been fantastic. It’s really been great to be in a place where the student’s success is the first priority.” After being in Wheatley for about two months, his favorite part is “the resilience of the students. They’ve made the best of what is an unusual experience, to say the least, and just the energy, the outlook in the hallways, and the effort put in our unusual situation” with COVID-19 is a testament to Wheatley students’ determination. As head of guidance, his job is to work with counselors, make sure processes and systems are in place, ensure “transcripts are uploaded to Naviance to make sure colleges receive them.” He also oversees committees and meetings to make sure students are put in the best position possible to be successful while building the master schedule as well.” During the pandemic, the guidance office has had to make a few changes. He shared that “running groups has become challenging” and meetings with students and parents have gone virtual. “But, conversation and relationships with children are still there. It has been different but good.”

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