SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Why the high school counselor issue is important to elementary teachers

During the recent labor agreement vote between SCTA and SCUSD, a lot of secondary teachers expressed concern that although elementary issues (CSR in K-3) were addressed, their primary concern, the reduction in the number of school counselors were not directly addressed by the agreement. Many voted for the agreement in spite of that, because they saw the value of elementary CSR. I think it is important to understand why this is so critical for all teachers (including elementary teachers like myself).  I had some conversations with two high school teachers in the district, Lori Jablonski (McClatchy) and Larry Ferlazzo (Luther Burbank), here is what I found out.

Counselors at high schools provide two valuable services. They help kids with emotional and other problems that need to get solved. Given how many students there are in a comprehensive high school (or even a middle school) and how they are distributed (multiple teachers), they can easily fall between the cracks. Having a counselor to refer students to is a critical safety net.

In addition, they advise students on what classes they will need to take to meet their academic goals. Many colleges require that a counselor write a recommendation letter for applicants for admission or scholarships. At McClatchy, they were originally set to have ONE counselor for the entire school of over 2,000. The Superintendent’s most recent email indicates that the level will be about 3x that figure. But, that would just be at QEIA schools (not McClatchy), and at those schools, it would mean shifting money from other programs (like CSR at Burbank). Even then, that would increase counselors to 1 per 1,000 or 1,500 students. Will that be enough? High school teachers don’t think so.

How would you feel as the parent of a student in one of these high schools? How do you feel as the elementary teacher of some of these students? All of us (elementary, middle, and high school teachers) spend a lot of time preparing these students to be college-ready, it would be a shame if they missed the “finish-line” because there wasn’t a counselor to help them with their paperwork. That’s why this issue is not just important for secondary. We need to make it clear that counselor staffing is our next priority and that any further money or savings should be spent on returning counselors.

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Written by alicemercer

June 24, 2010 at 5:34 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Though I am glad that some counselors are returning, as a priority service they should never have been visited with pink slip terrorism. Especially with a budget that is projecting plenty of unrequired reserves and outside contracts to cover the funding for counselors. For me laying off counselors looks like a central office negotiating move and bringing back about 3/4ths of them looks like cost shifting to the sites.
    Luther Burbank will be able to bring its counseling ratio back to the 1 to 516 (4 counselors) noted in its school report card for 2009 but McClatchy will have to increase its 1 to 428 ratio if it downsizes from the 5 on its report card. Only Kennedy with a 1 to 368 ratio (6 counselors) approached the American School Counselor Association’s recommended ratio of 1 to 250. Who knows what it will have to sacrifice if it wants to continue to meet student needs. Just like Burbank will have to sacrifice its QEIA funding for some other need.
    We should be discussing how to get Luther Burbank and all our high schools back to the 1 to 259 ratio Burbank had in 2008 when it had a special grant. Special must become normal for our schools to achieve their potential unhindered by these ill advised cuts. Bring all the counselors back, along with the teachers, librarians, social workers and psychologists.

    Leo Bennett-Cauchon

    June 26, 2010 at 8:06 am

  2. The numbers are wrong here. Each high school will have 3.8 counselors or possibly 4.0. Burbank and Johnson will fund additional counselors with QEIA funds.

    Ted Appel

    June 25, 2010 at 4:35 pm

  3. I agree with some posters here that Mr. Raymond’s discreet actions in the District is increasingly becoming alarming: demoralization in the Serna Center, weakening of the teachers’ role, graft, ousting of those who oppose Raymond, recruitment of his own “yes-men”, a subservient Board, and a gradual destruction of a working Sacramento school system. Like the SERNA people, we wish someone will step in to put a stop to these draconian excesses committed by Raymond that is harming the very backbone of the education system of Sacramento.

    EInstein

    June 24, 2010 at 11:57 pm


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