New Upper School counselor applies psychology experience to student concerns


Grace Sanders

Fleck has worked with Shape of Behavior, a series of clinics that treat children with autism spectrum disorder and associated development delays.

Andrew Duong and Sophia Lima

With the birth of her new daughter Sage, Upper School Counselor Kelli McCarty took maternity leave at the start of Spring Break.

Throughout her two years at St. John’s, McCarty has enhanced the Peer Leadership and Advisory programs. Most importantly, she has aided many individual parents and students, providing a place where they can feel welcome and comforted.

“I am sad to leave because I have built relationships with a lot of the students here,” McCarty said. “I’m sorry to have to walk away from those relationships, in particular in the middle of the semester.”

McCarty said she will not only miss her relationships with her students, but also with her coworkers.

“The faculty go above and beyond to to make sure all that all the students here are supported, and they really care for the students here,” McCarty said.

While on the lookout for McCarty’s replacement, the St. John’s Lower School counselor called a Kinkaid administrative staff member for suggestions. The Kinkaid staff member suggested Dr. Shawn Fleck, former Coordinator of the Department of Psychological Services at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.

Fleck has lived in Houston for 17 years. He arrived in 1999 for his pre-doctoral internship. After that, Fleck worked at the Shape of Behavior, a series of privately-owned clinics that carry out Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatments primarily for kids with autism spectrum disorder and associated development delays.  

After suffering a stroke in March 2016, Fleck reassessed his priorities and realized he was ready for something different. Working primarily in the public school system and clinics, Fleck wanted a new challenge.

“I knew about St. John’s, certainly its academic reputation and it being a private school,” Fleck said. “I’ve never worked in that setting, which brings its own challenges, but I will get to work with students who are higher than average in cognitive functioning, verbal skills and insight.”

According to Fleck, students at St. John’s are good candidates for brief solution-focused therapy, a therapy method emphasizing the student’s own ability to problem solve. He says that students that have met with him are motivated to change things about their lives.

Having already spoken with a number of students, Fleck has noticed major frequent themes in student concerns: college entrance pressures and high academic expectations.

“The expectations are placed on them by pretty much everybody in their lives, from parents to teachers to the admin to even their peers,” Fleck said. “It’s good because it motivates many students, but it’s bad in the sense that it can damage students’ self-esteem.”

Along with supporting students’ mental health, Fleck’s current first goal is to learn about the school.

“I’m a big fan of the culture of the school so far,” Fleck said. “I’m just trying to immerse myself in that.”

Fleck worked at Cy-Fair for 13 years and considers the place his professional “home”. He is now focusing on moving on to a new chapter in his life. After his stroke, he was unsure if he could be a productive psychologist, but his new role has given him the opportunity to do so.

“I kind of think of my new job as my life version 2.0,” Fleck said. “I had done all I felt like I could do at Cy-Fair, that’s why I moved on.”