Layoff update and Oakland teachers of the year

May 15 is upon us, and it doesn’t look like the Oakland school district plans to rescind any more layoff notices of teachers and counselors than it already has. (See my April layoff update here.)

Here is the latest layoff resolution, which the board votes on tomorrow night.

You can find the full agenda here.

On a happier note, I have news about the Oakland teachers of the year. One of the pink-slipped teachers I wrote about, Lissette Averhoff, is one of them. Lissette has informed me that she will be back at ACORN Woodland Elementary in the fall.

The other Oakland teacher of the year honoree is Lisa Hiltbrand, from Urban Promise Academy. She teaches sixth-grade humanities. Here’s what her principal, Mark Triplett, said about her to OUSD (as reported in the resolution):

“Lisa’s outstanding teaching is not just reflected in her test scores. By consistently using student interactions to deepen
learning, she has built a classroom culture where students feel safe and engaged. She pushes students to high levels while also creating a nurturing environment where students can express
themselves in positive ways. This year Lisa has focused on instilling the love reading in her students. She has actively sought to build a classroom library of engaging books. She invites guest speakers to come discuss their own experiences as a reader, and she has students participate in book cafes, where they discuss the books they are reading and develop recommendations for each other.”

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Oakland Teacher

    What a sad day for Oakland students and families!

    While all of the layoffs are destructive, I do not understand how they can lay off counselors. I heard they are laying off the entire Skyline Counseling staff. I thought the student to counseling ratio was in our contract. Does the contract only cover caseload, but it is somehow okay for students to have a counselor ratio of 0:2000?

    This is shameful and parents/students should protest at the board meeting if true

  • ann

    The principal at Kaiser Elementary (Mel Stenger) put out an email saying that Mia Settles his supervisor was working to save a pink slipped teacher, Doug Feague, new hire.

  • Zinnia

    Agreed that the parents should be up in arms about the counselor situation. Frick Middle School also removed the counselor position and who knows what other schools are doing. When the teachers at Skyline find out that they are going to be responsible for being “advisors” and getting their students into college, maybe then the pendulum will swing back. We need to actively fight back against this trend. The burden of the work of counselors is often spread onto the already overworked secretaries and attendance clerks as well. How thin can people really spread?! Soon our 8th grade dropout rate will match our 10th grade dropout rate.

  • Jim Mordecai

    The Ed Code states that a District “may” have a counselling program but the program must be supervised by a credentialed counselor. Unless a credentialed counselor is supervising the Skyline teacher “advisers”, such a program would be out of compliance with Ed Code language.

    On the issue of ratio of counselors to students that is defined by the District/OEA Contract language and not Ed Code language.

    The RBB budgeting process allows schools to decide if they want to pay for a counselor. But, the District is responsible under the contract for maintaining the number of counselors to students no matter what RBB action the individual school takes.

    SECTION 49600-49604

    49600. (a) The governing board of any school district may provide a comprehensive educational counseling program for all pupils enrolled in the schools of the district.
    For purposes of this section, “educational counseling” means specialized services provided by a school counselor possessing a valid credential with a specialization in pupil personnel services
    who is assigned specific times to directly counsel pupils…
    (c) Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting persons participating in an organized advisory program approved by the governing board of a school district, and supervised by a school district counselor, from advising pupils pursuant to the organized advisory program.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Katy Murphy

    I just learned that I spoiled the big teacher-of-the-year announcement!

    When I saw it on the agenda, I assumed the teachers in question already knew, but I guess it’s kept hush-hush (except for the public agenda item) until the official board vote.

  • Zinnia

    Thank you, Jim….that is why it is so important that the issue of outsourcing the counselor jobs to others with no PPS supervision is something that must be brought to light. It is currently happening all over the district.

  • Curious

    Katy: I just heard that the district rescinded all counselor layoffs … is that true?

  • 4th year Oakland teacher

    I have taught for 4 years at a small high school in OUSD, and we have never had any academic counselors. I know many of the teachers feel that we can’t counsel students as well as they might need through advisory periods, and much of the work is also done by the vice principal on top of his job. However, it is “normal”, and with so many new young teachers at our school, many of us have never taught in a school that had an academic counselor. I’m curious what their role is at the larger schools…it is too easy to get used to dysfunction.

  • Jim Mordecai

    4th Year Oakland Teacher:

    The Ed Code is prescriptive in that you can only do what the Ed Code allows.

    As I read the language, the Ed Code allows a District to have or not have a counseling program. But, if it has a program then it must be a program supervised by credentialed counselor. That means the Vice Principal of your school was out of compliance with Ed Code if he/she was not being supervised by a credentialed counselor.

    And, another issue attached to the Ed Code language is the issue of a program that serves some and not others. My reading of the Ed Code is that a District counseling program must serve all students even if ratio is 750-1 contracted minimum. I also suggest that there is a civil rights case in serving some students and not other equally.

    49600. (a) The governing board of any school district may provide a comprehensive educational counseling program for all pupils enrolled in the schools of the district.

    The School Board last night discussed using $3 million from laying off adult education teachers to in part pay for counselors. Many of the big high schools laid off counselors for next year using the RBB budgeting process.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Zinnia

    This is long, but informative. I just received it from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing-the horse’s mouth.

    4th year teacher- I am very sad that you have not experienced the support that could be provided by a counselor at your school.

    “California Code of Regulations Title 5 §80049.1 clarifies that school districts may use community-based service individuals or groups in the provision of pupil personnel services as long as they are supervised in their school-based activities by an individual holding a Pupil Personnel Services Credential. The actual authorizations for the various PPS credential holders and information identifying other providers is provided in the Administrator’s Assignment Manual in Section L at http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/manuals-handbooks/Administrator-Assignment-Manual.pdf. Please note that there is nothing within the authorizations of these documents or within the sections of codes under the authority of the Commission related to the handling of transcripts or confidential materials.

    School districts are not required to provide school counseling services. There was an Assembly Bill in 2006 that provided for a Middle and High School Supplemental School Counseling Program that required an increase in school counselors for the funding but according to CDE local governing boards now have flexibility in the use of those funds for other educational programs. (http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mc/mhscfaq.asp)

    While a school district is not required to provide school counseling services they are also not able to provide those services by non-authorized staff such as teachers or administrators. An individual may not serve as the school counselor or provide the authorized services of a school counselor without holding an appropriate credential. Frequently schools offer organized advisement programs in which teachers serve as student advisors and schools offer advisement classes with a district approved curriculum according to EC §49600(c).

    Advisory programs augment school site and district guidance programs but do not replace them. To address the legal and appropriate responsibilities of teacher advisors and credentialed school counselors within the context of school advisory programs, the Commission issued the Information Advisory on EC §49600 Concerning Teacher Advisement Programs in December 1996. It may be found on the Commission’s web site at the following link: http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/cig/HANDBOOKS/Advisory-on-Teacher-Assignment.pdf.

    The advisory program must be approved by the governing board and be under the supervision of the holder of a Pupil Personnel Services Credential in School Counseling. A teacher cannot serve as a counselor for any number of hours per day.

    Title 5 Section 80049.1, added to regulation in December 1999, established specific authorization statements for each of the four Pupil Personnel Services areas, thereby clarifying the specific services each of these areas authorizes the holder to perform. Each of these professionals, either individually or a members of a student support services team, may perform services consistent with the Title 5 authorizations. develop, plan, implement and evaluate a school counseling and guidance program that includes academic, career, personal and social development; advocate for the high academic achievement and social development of all students; provide school-wide prevention and intervention strategies and counseling services; provide consultation, training and staff development to teachers and parents regarding students’ needs; and supervise a

    district-approved advisory program as described in EC §49600.

    There is an additional local assignment option for the provision of counseling services for small school districts. EC §44046 allows social workers, with or without holding a credential, to provide counseling services in small school districts as defined in the section as a unified school district having an average daily attendance of less than 1501 or a high school district with an average daily attendance of less than 301.

    The governing board of a small school district, which does not employ persons charges with school-community duties of counseling students and parents or guardians in their homes, may contract with any qualified social service agency or organization to secure the services, on a part-time or full-time basis, of qualified social workers as counselors in school and in the homes of pupils. The State Board of Education shall adopt rules and regulations for the implementation of this section, but such social workers shall not be required to hold credentials or certification documents otherwise required under this code for service in the public schools.”


    Roxann L. Purdue, Asst. Consultant

    Certification, Assignment and Waivers Division

    Commission on Teacher Credentialing

    phone: 916-322-5038 fax: 916-322-0048

    email: cawassignments@ctc.ca.gov

  • Oakland Teacher

    Skyline High (who as far as I can tell is giving up, consolidating, laying off all counselors)has begun the registration and course selection process, using site admin and teachers to do transcript review and course selection recommendations. Only the head counselor was present, but she was not invited to take part in registration. This is RBB at its worst: a conscious choice by admin to dump direct counseling to save money.

    Perhaps they will have centralized counseling done by t.v.? This could be the wave of the future, with centralized teaching soon to follow. Students could just have a live monitor in the classroom (former military or police) to keep order, and a teacher beamed in on t.v. It does sound like Brave New World.

    The rules governing school counseling (as above by the CTC) are so complex and ambiguous, it seems like they give schools the opportunity to get around. If “While a school district is not required to provide school counseling services they are also not able to provide those services by non-authorized staff such as teachers or administrators. An individual may not serve as the school counselor or provide the authorized services of a school counselor without holding an appropriate credential.” is true, then who is supposed to provide the service? That language makes it sound like it is okay not to provide counseling by someone with the proper credential as long as you don’t have anyone else do the job either. Where does that leave students?

  • Nextset

    In a bad school.

  • Sue

    This is all very interesting, but some of us have known for a month that Skyline wasn’t going to have any counselors anymore. Here are comments I posted at the time our family found out – these were originally under Katy’s post entitled “So many students, so few counselors”.
    Sue Says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
    Last Thursday, Skyline had a welcome/introduction for parents of next fall’s incoming freshmen. We heard all about A-G requirements for graduation, with handouts, as well as many other interesting topics. We were told that registration packages would be distributed to our children at their current middle schools, and parents who were coming in from other districts or currently home schooling, were given a sign-up for their child’s registration package.

    Yesterday, my 8th grader brought home the promised registration package, and it also includes the information about A-G requirements. Tonight we’ll be going back to Skyline for *manditory* registration (they have over 100 more students wanting to attend Skyline than they have room for), and our 8th grader will be picking his preferred classes / electives.

    Yes, I think Skyline has just as bad a student-to-counselor ratio as the other high schools. One counselor for the entire incoming freshman class – that’s just not enough. But I do think they are making a good attempt to get the graduation requirements out to the students and the families.

    I’m not concerned that my child will have problems with graduation requirements, he’s GATE. And I’m not too concerned about his access to a counselor – but that’s because of his parents – we’re active and involved, and we were pretty seriously *activist* when our older, autistic kid was in OUSD. We know how to take care of our own.

    I wish it were possible for us to take on more. There are so many students who don’t have effective support and advocacy. We have an autistic student in college now, and he still needs us to be his support and advocacy team. Unfortunately, between the two children we just don’t have the time and energy to give to other students.

    Sue Says:
    April 15th, 2011 at 9:43 am
    We certainly got a surprise at last night’s Skyline registration. A counselor was outside the gym handing out packets for the last counselor left at the school, who is being RIF’ed at the end of this school year.

    Inside, my husband found Mr. Johnston, the principal, and asked him how student counseling would be provided with *NO* counselors. He has a plan, assistant principals will be responsible for student counseling. Where can we see this plan? It’s not available, yet. It will be on the Skyline high school’s website, soon.

    Not very good answers… Assistant principals already have full-time jobs and responsibilities. So do counselors. But somehow, in the future both sets of duties and responsibilities will be performed by half the number of people who were doing these jobs currently.

    I don’t think this is going to work out well for the staff or the students, but I can’t really blame the principal too much – he has to make cuts, and there aren’t any good places to make them.

    We’ll be checking the Skyline website regularly for the promised plan.
    I’ve checked Skyline’s website this morning, http://www.skylinehs.org/
    and there’s nothing about counseling for the upcoming school year. There’s information and a list of counseling staff for the 2009-2010 school year.

    As I said a month ago, I’m not concerned for my own son who’s an incoming freshman. My husband and I can give him the guidance he won’t be getting from a school counselor. I just wish *someone* was going to be available to the other Skyline students who don’t have strong family support systems.

  • Zinnia

    to #7 Curious
    Several counselors are still layed off.

  • Christopher Scheer

    Here’s an article from the Skyline Oracle on the counselor situation: