Part of the Bay Area News Group

The future of school counseling in California

By Katy Murphy
Friday, July 15th, 2011 at 9:57 pm in budget, students.

Staff Photojournalist

When Skyline High School’s 1,900 students return to school in the fall, they’ll have to see someone else besides a counselor for scheduling, college advising, scholarships, or any of the other things that once brought them into the counselor’s office. Faced with a tough budget decision, Skyline’s principal decided to do away with the entire counseling staff.

Some of Oakland’s small schools have long functioned without school counselors, but this fall, as many as six schools — including Skyline — could be counselor-less for the first time. (OUSD staff wouldn’t give me the names, saying it wasn’t final, but I know the Frick Middle School counselor was laid off, and Betty Olson-Jones, the OEA president, said Westlake might also be without any counselors next year.)

I checked to see what was happening in other districts and wrote a story about the issue. You can find it here.

What do you consider to be the most vital roles of a school counselor? I’ve heard some say that they are regularly given test proctoring and other administrative tasks (as administrators, too, have been cut). In light of the enormous student-counselor ratios in California (810 to 1 in 2009-10), how would you change their job description to make the most of their training, expertise and time? Should they be programming students into courses, for example?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • Oakland Teacher

    Johnston quote that they will supply those services in a “fantastic fashion” is fantasy. I have heard that his new staff who will be taking over the counseling role completely botched administering the AP exams, and that the AP test scores are all being held back due to test admin irregularities.

    Parents need to stand up and speak out. Counselors are not replaceable. They are the one position at the school who are uniquely trained to help struggling students stay in school, mediate conflicts, make sure students have everything they need to get financial aide, apply to college, plus endless other jobs. Someone who has an entirely different job is not going to be able to fill those shoes.

    It will be very interesting to see how the scheduling goes at Skyline next year. I wonder if they will try to blame the chaos on the fired counselors and hope that Katy follows up on this story, from class schedules to whether students feel as though they had the support they needed to get into decent colleges/get financial aide (the Cal Grant is entirely dependent upon the school sending in their part).

  • Cranky Teacher

    You glorify counselors. Some are good, others are not. Mostly they are just overwhelmed by the ludicrous numbers.

    Here is the deal: They make as much as a teacher. When the society is going bust and doesn’t want to be taxed, you have to cut somewhere.

    Besides its 3 counselors, Skyline also cut 10-12 teacher positions, fyi. Some schools in the district cut nearly 50% of their teacher positions. No counselors is an important story and I’m glad Katy covered it, but the bloodletting happening right now goes far beyond scheduling problems. Class sizes are going to take a major leap next year — I hope PhD candidate is studying this, as it will be a good time to assess the controversial importance of class size.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Sorry, Katy, didn’t mean your story glorified them, meant Oakland Teacher.

  • Yastrzemski

    I think Oakland Teacher has a point though…it isn’t fair to the seniors up there at Skyline if they fail to qualify for grants or scholarships because someone at the school forgot to submit something to the state (or, no one can do it).

  • Nextset

    And this is all going to get worse.

    You can’t run a welfare state on top of a 3rd world nation with open borders forever without these kinds of problems. The die was cast when the democrats got control of CA and Congress generations ago and decided to replace the people of the USA with new people more to their liking.

    Goodbye School Districts.

    And we are in the process of losing other pieces of our civililzation also. Public Safety is being discontinued – the county hospitals are being watered down to the point they won’t function – our CA roadways are not being maintained as they once were – the municipalities are defunded. The trends are well established. Our taxes are higher than the other states – Were we really proud of nearly 10% sales tax?

    The presense of foreign invaders accounts for much of this budget deficit – remove, deport or intern all of them, discontinue birthright citizenship and abolish entitlements. The stress on the budget (and unemployment) will abate sharply.

    We did this to ourselves.

  • TheTruthHurts

    One of these days – I’ll probably be dead – we’ll have parents and students that care enough about education to learn and fight for what they need and deserve. Until then, budget cuts will foster continued degradation in the very communities that need the most help.

  • J.R.

    Truthhurts,
    Not too many years ago education was funded at more than 50% of the state budget(and many years previous to that), and yet what has been done with that money? Can the general educational performance really go down all that much more? We are currently at 40% of the budget, and how much do you think we need, 60% 70% even? How much will it take to show that the taxpayers care? We have never really had much of a tax revenue problem, it’s mainly a spending problem exacerbated by two main culprits:

    1. We have been saddled with outrageous pension obligations, to a really large generation of private sector workers(which BTW are riddled with redundancies and higher than market salaries and benefits).

    2. We have 33% of all the public assistance cases in the US. We also have just about 50% of the state population who are paying taxes(and paying dearly).

    The situation is and has become we’ll have more people getting paid not to work, than people who actually work and pay taxes(and necessarily you can’t really even count those who paychecks come from taxes, which is a monetary wash).

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    A couple of points. The demographics of the State have changed since education was funded at 50%. As the economic stratification, and the non-English as a first language shifted, general education performance would be expected on average to change. And, as the population make-up changed perhaps it has become easier for the voting population to not care for those children that are other people’s children. Exception has been Oakland that wherein the voting population has generously supported parcel taxes prior to putting charter schools on the ballot.

    Add on to those shifts mentioned above and taking into consideration the average age of the population has also changed toward the graying of the population, perhaps J.R. the education system should be praised for its accomplishment in the face of many changes with fewer resources.

    And, the teacher pension system has not been an obligation the California taxpayers have been saddled with. Former Skyline High Counselor David Turner explained the teacher retirement system called CALSTRS works in the following posting on a teacher list service:

    “CALSTRS pension:

    1. We earned our pension benefits from our first paycheck by contributing 8% of our income toward
    retirement with our district matching 8.25% of our earnings. The state contributes very little to CALSTRS.

    2. We don’t get Social Security. When we earn Social Security through other work, we’re given approximately 20% of what others get (That’s called the “offset” amount for teachers, firefighters and police).

    3. CALSTRS is fiscally solvent and has posted gains of 12% and close to 20% these past two years.
    Our pension does NOT contribute to our state budget problems in spite of what you hear from the GOP.

    4. We do not receive health benefits after retirement nor do we receive COLA on our STRS plan…”

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    Jim,
    I am aware that you do not get social security(I was not specifically speaking about teachers hence the broad term public sector workers). By law the California taxpayer is required to ensure full funding of included public sector pension plans(even though funding may be shorted ex: by borrowing or issuing bonds including paying back all heavy interest) of legally mandated public sector retirement systems(including colas and interest incurred on any relative debt. One way or another the taxpayers pay on the front end or the back, but they pay big time.

  • make it go away

    Losing counselors is not a disaster. Losing teachers is as Cranky Teacher mentioned. However, the work is the work, and will not go away. Their will be fights, and psychological problems, and pregnancies, and homelessness, and homophobic remarks, and troubled kids, and suicide attempts, and racial conflicts. A caring adult is necessary in each case. People in education care. That is why they teach. Non-educators do not appreciate the daily stress this creates (especially at the high school level). Unfortunately the trend is to assign to teachers the role of counselors with an extra homeroom class. A good teacher does this already, but why let a bad teacher do it too? Assign master teachers to do this once a week and you might have a workable system. But to make class sizes larger at the same time is insane.

    As far as college scholarships go, we have a college and career center at our school, and two employees to staff it. They are the ones who get the scholarship info out, and conduct the FAFSA workshops, and review transcripts to see if they are college eligible, and post new scholarship opportunities, and make sure kids are signed up for PSAT, SAT I and II and the ACT, and look over college essays, not counselors. This is not important in a rich community, but is vital at one where many parents did not attend college.

    If no one else does these things in Oakland but the counselors, then what OUSD needs now is a volunteer center where concerned parents can come in, and meet with kids to fulfill these services.

    I am concerned that Skyline administrators cannot even administer an AP exam. The protocols are very simple and straightforward. For shame for jeopardizing the AP scores of kids who want to go to college.

    And Nextset, I know you have legal training. Please understand court decisions mandate that all students receive a free and public education, not just legal ones. This is not an economic decision, but a constitutional one. I hope you know that birthright citizenship was originally started to stop discrimination against the former slaves.

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    I just want you to be clear that when you say that “taxpayers pay … big time.” in reference to public employees’ retirement that your argument is not about the teacher retirement system over the years.

    I haven’t followed any particular public employee system other than the one that employed me. And, your generalization that taxpayers are paying big time for all retirement systems other than teachers is an assertion without you presenting any facts.

    However, I am not sure what you want in regard to public employees’ pensions. What would be your idea of a reasonable percentage of funding for public employees?

    Would you want no guarantee of pensions by California law?

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.
  • A Counselor

    Cranky Teacher,
    I am a counselor in the district for 15 plus years, but have never been glorified. I am appalled by your comment “some are good, others are not”. As far as I’m concerned all of the counselors are great and work above and beyond. Most of the time, counselors have to pay for our own conferences, workshops, and supplies…just like teachers. I’m sure that there are times that counselors haven’t pleased everyone all the time, but try placing 50-60 kids in your classrooms and see how many teachers are good and how many others are not. Just a correction, it is 4 counselor positions that have been lost at Skyline, even though one counselor has retired.

    Teachers please note that this is not an attach given toward teachers as I support ALL of you. This is just an example to stress my point.

    Make It Go Away,

    Yes, losing counselors is a disaster! Losing teachers is also a disaster. The work will not go away. Meanwhile, our students, parents, teachers, counselor and community will suffer the consequences.

    District has always had an assigned counselor for a Scholarship Coordinator. The OUSD has paid a very minimal annual stipend for a counselor to take on this work. It was only just 2010-2011 that a returning teacher took over the scholarship role along with college and career role. All of this should have been done by counselors instead of being out-sourced. Just a few years back counselors conducted all of the classroom visits to share about graduation and college requirements, FAFSA workshops, PSAT, SAT 1 and 11 and ACT, look over college essays, assist student to schedule classes AND scholarships. Counselors did all of this work along with taking care of the fights, psychological problems, pregnancies, abuse, homelessness, troubled kids, and suicide attempts, AND scheduling classes for students. It is ludicrous to think that this work can be done in a one period homeroom class. Things take place all day long, everyday.

    You mentioned that making class sizes larger for teacher is insane. It has been insane to watch counselor caseloads go from 300:1 to 500:1 to 700:1 and then complain that counselors can’t keep up. What’s really insane is that Skyline principal hired 5 administrators and 2 deans that make a whole lot more money than counselors or teachers to take over counselor roles. A few years ago District and one of the Skyline principals supported out-sourcing of various agencies to come in and take over counselor jobs. Instead of these agencies working with counselors, they worked against counselors. The out-sourcing has become nothing more that a vulture-like competition to eliminate and bad-mouth counselors. Forbid the OUSD show support for counselors and lessen the counseling loads. One Skyline counselor was laid off to give this retiring teacher a counselor job. Counselors should have had priority over the returning teacher that doesn’t want to teach anymore. Counselors have more seniority over this returning teacher, but she is a friend of the principal from what I understand. One of the newly hired assistant principals is new as well, but a friend of the principal from what I understand! Counselors need jobs too! There shouldn’t be favorites.

    And you’re right people in education care. Counselors have always been clustered with teachers and considered educators. Counselors teach and counsel. So yes, teachers and counselors care about student education.

  • Debora

    I have many elementary students who are working very hard to rise above the circumstances (financial, educational and job/career) of their families. The problem is that the students do not have anyone at home to guide their choices. I am currently an “academic counselor” to several neighborhood middle and high school students as well as “academic counselor” to several former students.

    Many counselors look at the student’s academic test scores and family history of education and support and track students, at least initially, based on these facts. However, students, even those who have tested academically gifted, do not often have the test scores commensurate with their intellectual ability and desire to succeed, particularly in science and high level mathematics where elementary schools are focused on computation rather than thinking about mathematical problem solving. Si Swun, while it raises the test scores is an example of strong computational ability with almost no challenging mathematical thought. Science scores on fifth grade tests are incredibly low even though it takes only 80% or so to be “advanced” and roughly 74% to be proficient.

    Students who do not have access to counselors at school do not have access to the courses to challenge them intellectually. Teachers need to make academic recommendations for the next school (elementary for middle and middle for high) otherwise students get lost in the shuffle.

    A Counselor: I called the counselor at my local middle school to get a list of the foreign language courses, mathematics courses, syllabi for 6th, 7th and 8th grade classes and a list of supplemental reading materials for the courses my daughter would be likely to have in middle school. She could provide none of this information. Counselors should have this material for every class offered at the school with a set of criteria to qualify for entry in these course. It has been my personal experience that they do not.

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    Thanks for the references. I get back to you on this issue of underfunding of public retirement.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Recently Graduated Skyline Student

    No, the screwing of the students in terms of AP exams was in part the administration’s doing but also heavily relied on the counselors. The counselors are the main people to blame for that and the only reason the administration is to be blamed is for letting the counselors do it that. Also the administration has yet to do anything about the situation and has in turn left many recent seniors screwed over in terms of college as the UC deadline for AP scores was the 15th of this month.

    A lot of students paid full price for multiple tests only to gain excitement when recieving their letter from collegeboard only to find a “scores on hold” when opening it a couple of weeks ago as Skyline has yet to say anything about the situation. One of my friends emailed the administration and they claimed they didn’t even know the situation existed.

    And to be honest, the testing situation wasn’t even that bad this year as many say it was the same as previous years just with the counselors who weren’t as strict but there was no mass outbreak of students cheating during the test. The worst effect from this was that it probably took more time to quiet down to start to tests.

    Among my peers I had only heard of probably TWO of the tests that were truly a mess, and one was among the first to be cancelled and another, the majority of the students felt ill-prepared for this test because of their antics in class all year so many of them screwed around during the test and many also left early.Many people are being affected by this and it should be looked into.

  • Can’t believe it

    recent grad- Which subjects were affected?

    Students are not allowed to leave AP exams “early”. Obviously because students across the world are taking exams at different times, and students could text message and/or post exam questions and answers.

    the College Board practice is to cancel scores of ALL AP exams when one exam is compromised. this is clear from all the College Board administrative literature, and it is likely that They will not allow AP exams to be given at Skyline next year, forcing the students to go to a more secure site. This is clearly on the back of the AP Coordinator and ultimately the principal. if the administration “didn’t know” it is scandalous, as each proctor is required to remark on any irregularity. Perhaps the counselors were finally eliminated by a frustrated principal when this scandal came to light? Katy should look into this.

    I know of one other school where irate parents tried to sue, but were unsuccessful. I feel sorry for the students who did not cheat or act up, and the teachers who dutifully prepared their students for the exam, but I have very low regard for students who took the exam at taxpayer’s or parent’s expense and disrupted it for others.

  • Jim Mordecai

    J.R.

    I’m back on the issue of California public pension being “underfunded”.

    The projection made by Graduate Students at Stanford of underfunding was written before the market recovery boosted investment returns of CALSTRS and the other two public retirement systems studied. Public retirement system spokes persons have currently been reporting the great returns they had this year from holdings that were dogs during the market meltdown.

    Before the market fell, CalSTRS projections were based on an average of 8% return when historical return for the market was 10%.

    The sky is falling view of some is that the market will average in 30 years a return of 4%. This issue of setting the benchmark for a 30 year return is discussed in my posting below from CALSTRS webpage.

    The issue for the public to address is should public employees continue to have a defined benefit (guaranteed retirement) or should only the contribution be defined. And, a third choice would be a combination of the two. But, this discussion is in no way part of the problem in balancing the State Budget.

    As a teacher I assumed that teaching was a profession and 8% for retirement coming out of my paycheck would allow me to retire and pay the bills.

    Teachers in the past have had a defined benefit under the STIRS system. As I understand it the public’s contribution has been limited to the 8.5% that has been part of the state budget. I believe the market meltdown has not so far cost one additional retirement dollar because the retirement systems currently has enough to pay its retirees for decades.

    The following is taken from CalSTRS webpage historical discussion of the issue of CalSTRS funding gap:

    “The Impact of the 2008 Market Downturn
    In June 2009 CalSTRS staff updated the board on the execution of the funding strategy. Even though staff had made a concerted effort over the prior two years to educate stakeholders on the funding strategy, the severe market downturn presented new challenges to its implementation.

    For one, the negative investment returns significantly widened the funding gap beyond what was projected when the funding strategy was adopted in late 2006. Consequently, the increased contributions required to fully fund the DB Program would need to be greater than originally planned.

    At a time when school district budget reductions were forcing teacher layoffs and the state was mired in a historic budget impasse and ensuing budget shortfall, prudence necessitated a more conservative pace at which CalSTRS would expect legislative sponsorship for the contribution increases outlined in the funding strategy.

    The board implemented a multi-layered outreach effort to further bolster member education about the value of their defined benefit pension and the need for prompt action to address the long-term sustainability of the fund. This outreach was facilitated through several channels, including:

    • The member education microsite
    CalSTRSBenefits.us
    • Public speaking engagements by board members
    and CalSTRS leadership, articles in member
    publications
    • Audio town hall meetings for retired members

    Media Attention on Public Pensions
    In addition to widening the funding gap beyond the original 2006 assumption and compelling CalSTRS to approach education on the funding issues with greater delicacy, the historic market downturn and unprecedented collapse of financial institutions ignited a firestorm of media attention toward public pensions.

    The crux of this attention fixated on the incorrect perception that funding public pensions was a tremendous burden on state and local budgets. A byproduct of the increasingly heated rhetoric was the scrutiny from a small handful of academics that challenged and attempted to discredit the traditional methods by which public pension plans measure solvency. More specifically, the focus of this research was on the assumed investment rate—the rate of return the pension plan chooses to project the long-term return on its investment portfolio.

    As long-term investors, public pension plans primarily assume around an 8 percent return on their investments, a number confirmed as suitable based on actuarial opinion and historic investment experience.

    However, the small contingent of academics claimed this number was unrealistic and needed to be significantly reduced (closer to 4 percent) to reflect the slumping markets and match the return on “risk free” investment instruments issued by the full faith and backing of the federal government.

    The media attention this topic received created a widespread impression that public pension plans were understating their true liabilities. At the same time, public pensions nationwide, including CalSTRS, were re-evaluating their investment assumptions in light of the depressed markets of the last decade and lowered expectations in the future.

    In December 2010, after extensive research and deliberation, the board lowered the DB Program investment assumption to 7.75 percent, after assuming an 8 percent return on CalSTRS investments the previous 15 years.

    As of June 30, 2010, the DB Program was 71 percent funded with a $56 billion funding gap as a result of the market downturn and a reduction in the assumed investment rate.”

    Jim Mordecai

  • Graduated Skyline Mom

    Keep in mind that the Skyline parents have received nothing from any Skyline administrator regarding the delay in receiving the AP scores. Any information that has been received has been the result of hard work and many phone calls by a parent of seniors who just graduated (not me). She is to be commended but why is she the one who has to pursue this?

  • Recently Graduated Skyline Student

    And also hard work of a couple of students who were the first to figure out that this issue actually existed. As of now all subjects are affected besides some of the tests that were at Skyline (opposed to Merrit) and BC Calculus. And yes, the statistics fiasco should result in the cancelling of all the Statistics scores, as most of the students in statistics wouldn’t care as they screwed around in class all year and knew they wouldn’t be passing. This shouldn’t affect all the other subjects as many have said that the testing situation was very similar to last year other than the proctors.

    p.s. I don’t think the leniency of the counselors resulted in the principal letting them go as the they were said to being let go before the administration was aware of this incident which was a couple of weeks ago.

  • Sue

    I first heard that Skyline’s counselors were being cut back in April at registration for my incoming freshman son.

    I would suspect that “leniency of the counselors” could have been a result of their being cut, but it’s pretty clear from the timing that the reverse isn’t possible.

  • A Counselor

    Recently Graduated Skyline Student

    This is the first year that Skyline counselors have proctored AP exams under the direction of one administrator. Counselors were not given any type of training. Counselors were not given the opportunity to discuss the planning of the AP exam testing. Proctor exam booklets and all testing materials were given to counselors just a few minutes prior to testing. Often, materials were missing and once the proctor exam booklets were missing from the materials, leaving counselors and students waiting to begin testing. During the Merritt testing counselors complained to the administration each morning that there were not enough rooms, that the rooms were too crowded, that there were not enough desks, and that there was no clock in one room. We were told to deal with what we had. Additionally, we didn’t receive an opportunity to debrief to our administrator to discuss our frustrations about how the AP exam testing was conducted. Note that this is the first that I am hearing of a student leaving the testing site! Interesting! Also, counselors had nothing to do with the delivery of testing materials or turning in testing materials.

    Personally, I am so sorry that this ordeal happened for any student taking the AP exams. Counselors did try to convey this to our administrator.

    Counselors were told that they were being laid-off in late October, maybe early November due to budget cuts.

    Cranky Teacher

    Your comment “you glorify counselors”. Skyline counselors are never glorified! This is a good example. If anything goes wrong, it’s always the counselors fault. Again, counselors don’t get the opportunity to organize, plan, to have input, or to debrief in anything that they do.

    Sue

    This year in particular, Skyline counselors were told exactly what to do: four-year planning, attendance contracts, one presentation regarding transcript reviews, and to call names for the graduation. Note: two counselors were out ill during the graduation. Two counselors were left to call names, but those two counselors did an excellent job from what I understand. Counselors worked just as diligently as they have in the past, because that is just how counselors are – dedicated to every student!

  • Katy Murphy

    I’d like to learn more about this AP test situation. Can someone in the know email me? (kmurphy at bayareanewsgroup dot-com)

  • Pamela Reed

    Katy Murphy asked me to write a few words to go along with the picture that was taken. Unfortunately, the day that this picture was taken, I went home later learning that I had pneumonia. Apparently, I was ill for a while, but didn’t realize how serious it was until that day. Sorry Katy that I am submitting this article in so late.

    My empty office takes me down memory lane as I remember the past years. I remember when I first arrived at Skyline, my husband was ill and in ICU with cancer in his right kidney. Five new colleagues took me in and covered for me when I needed to run back and forth to hospital. Even, our current principal worked with me by letting me make up time and work. Everyone was extremely accommodating including teachers, students and parents. Everyone took time to stop by my office to see how I was doing and to make sure that my husband was okay. To this day, some parents still ask how my husband is doing which I very much appreciate. This just shows how the relationships build over the years and how close we get to our students and parents.

    Later something happened that I will never forget during my first year at Skyline. As usual the lines were endless for weeks at our offices. One of our more tenured counselors told some of my students waiting in line to see me “you might have to wait a while, but your counselor will make it well worth you time”. I was extremely touched by her words and the acknowledgement of my good work. As each new year begins, I remember her kind words.

    Four years later, all but one colleague moved on. My hubby improved! And, our department was assigned a new Head Counselor coming from a middle school. Each year, we began the year off with only three counselors (at the beginning of the year) and a new principal. Counselors were trying to make needed adjustments to students schedules, fill out college applications, write letters of recommendation for scholarships and colleges, submit Cal Grant forms, clear graduating seniors, work with parents and students for non-graduating seniors, SAT’s, ACT’s, COST, not to mention updating transcripts for the seniors, completing final applications to colleges, graduation, and coordinating the scholarship awards night. Oh yes, we certainly can’t forget all of the SSTs, IEP’s, 504’s while trying to work with students creating new schedules for the following year. Even though it was lots of work, it was exciting helping everyone! I enjoyed every moment and couldn’t get enough hours in the day to help everyone, but it was so gratifying knowing that I was helping so many students and parents. True, I couldn’t get to everyone, but had hoped that we could get our caseloads reduced and more counselors so that we could provide better services to more students. It was discouraging and the worst part of my job as a counselor was that I couldn’t get to everyone all of the time.

    Other than the kind words of my colleagues, I don’t ever remember being honored for anything by the OUSD district or administrators. Oops! My immediate sophomore administrator did honor me for my good work, at the very beginning of this year. I do remember the students, teachers, and parents bringing me special gifts, wonderful goodies, and flowers. You can imagine my surprise when Principal Johnston told counselors that he had to cut all Skyline counselors, at the beginning of the year, due to budget cuts. Even so, I was determined to work diligently helping every student that I could. A little later, counselors were reassigned caseloads. I was working with juniors and seniors, but ended up with sophomores, which I fell in love with over time. Again, I was determined to do the best job for these students. Most of my seniors and juniors were okay, but I did have quite a few seniors that were very upset as I knew them well and they wanted me to follow through with them through-out the year. I was told that I could not work with anyone other than sophomores unless it was on my own time. So, I did work with the seniors requesting my services on my own time after hours. I was determined to make certain that they felt comfortable through-out the year and they didn’t worry about anything. It was worth the extra time that I spent to make certain that these students had what they needed for graduation.

    You have no idea how much I will miss Skyline. I have no idea what to expect next year, but what ever the case, I will do my very best to service anyone that comes my way. Counseling is my life. Even though I have just three years to go, I was really hoping that these would best last three years of my working life as a counselor. Now, I’m not sure what to expect. As for Skyline, I’m hoping that the principal will be able to adjust his budget or that the district will come up with the money to afford us to continue our work at Skyline. If not, I’m sure that Skyline will be fine this first year especially as Skyline knows that everyone will be watching. However, I am afraid that some students will still fall through the crack or be treated unfairly without choice. Some students may not receive the schedules that they want. I know that this year, the students that didn’t get the changes that they asked for just didn’t attend those classes. I’m hoping that this won’t be the case this year.

    As I look at my picture again, I wonder who will fill my empty office. I wonder if the person taking my office will be treated better than I was. I wonder if they will have a working telephone and telephone answering machine. I wonder if their phone calls will be intercepted and screened. I wonder if they will have the Asbestos flooring removed. I wonder if they will update the antique computer. I wonder if they will replace the old “r D. Tun Counse o” on my door that has been there since the day I took this office. I wonder if the old desk will be replaced with something more appropriate so that typing on the keyboard becomes a little better, so that the new person doesn’t develop Carpal Tunnel. I wonder if the new person moving in this office will be respected more than a counselor could ever expect to be respected. I wonder if there will be more money to make sure their needs are met than were the needs of counselors.

    Mostly, I will miss my students and worry about their successes. I wonder about the looks on the faces of my students as they approach my office in August!

  • Sue

    Oh dear. I think I inadvertently offended, and I apologize.

    I put the leniency comment of my previous post in quotes because I had no direct evidence of it. My intention was that *if* there had been a less than stellar performance by the counselors proctoring testing, it might have been a result of knowing their jobs were ending, but it certainly could not have been the cause.

    In all honesty, I’ve been through a couple of layoffs in my career, and when I knew I was being let go, I did tend to slack off. I think that’s simply human nature, and many people have understandably given less that 100% when they’ve been told that their services are no longer needed.

    Our family had little contact with Skyline’s counselors during my older son’s four years, mostly because he had the ASIP inclusion teachers watching out for his needs. When we needed transcripts for his college app, the counselor responded promptly, so the only experience I’ve had with a Skyline counselor was a positive one.

    Again, I’m really sorry that my unclear post caused offense.

  • A Counselor

    Sue,
    Thank you, Sue. I appreciate your explanation and sensitivity around the counseling issues as counselors have been raked over the coals during this time. Just because counselors are leaving Skyline, it seems as though everyone is trying to make hurtful digs and bring Skyline counselors into a bad light. Skyline counselors have been eliminated at Skyline due to budget cuts! Again, thank you for your sensitivity around counselors.

  • Can’t believe it

    Got to say it… That was the most self serving, pity evoking, excuse making, disingenuous, post by a disgruntled and unhappy employee I have ever read. The rules, the principal, the lousy office situation the “sign on the door” I mean c’mon! This is public education.

    And basically the students who took the AP exams are screwed. sorry about the carpal tunnel, and your husband’s illness from years ago, but really is that an excuse for what happened in May 2011? A million students take AP exams across the USA every year without incident, except at Skyline.

    And what’s the deal with not going to classes you don’t like? this school is truly dysfunctional. Professionals do not give less than 100%. This feeds into the negative stereotype of OUSD.

  • Gordon Danning

    Can’t Believe It:

    No, I’VE got to say it: Have you ever heard of confirmation bias? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias#Biased_interpretation

  • Pamela Reed

    Can’t Believe It Says…Your lack of compassion may be one of the reasons that OUSD has so many problems. OUSD needs to care about the students, parents, teachers, counselors, and community. Anyone can jump in to make negative statements.

    Obviously, the students are suffering in OUSD. Skyline students are suffering the consequences for the AP testing. I feel terrible about what happened as I am certain others do as well. Next year, the testing coordinator or administrator needs to make certain that students have proper testing rooms and materials.

  • Pamela Reed

    Educators from across the country are converging on Washington, DC July 28-31 to stand up for our students and the future of public education. Oakland’s own, Anthony Cody, has organized a conference and rally that will protest the misguided policies of Arne Duncan, the concerted effort to privatize education, and the unwarranted attacks on teachers.

    Save Our Schools Rally!
    California State Capitol Building
    1315 10th Street, Sacramento
    Saturday, July 30, 2011
    11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

    PARKING: Parking is widely available in this part of town. There are parking garages galore and street parking can also probably be found with the right amount of determination and positive thinking (FYI: Also, there are coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants all within short walking distance as well.)

    WEATHER: It is expected to be hot the day of the event, so just be prepared. Don’t let that be a deterrent because we need people like you to brave the heat and come out any way! There are large trees in the rally area that provide excellent shade. Some ideas for optimum comfort the day of– hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, extra water if you want it, umbrellas for shade, light cotton clothing –and with that you should be rally ready!

    PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD! Bring you friends, kids, colleagues, family members, neighbors, etc. Make signs and show up ready to rally. These issues within our education system are ones that affect everyone and this is a cause that everyone can get involved in– whether you area parent, educator, student, or concerned citizen. We welcome all!

  • Jenna

    I worry about the students who took AP exams because college is a financial burden on their families. I would be interesting if the students themselves required the district to reimburse them for the cost of taking the classes in college to earn the units they could have received on the AP exam.

    I understand that mistakes happen, but in Oakland it seems the mistakes happen disproportionately to those students and their families who can least afford it.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Sorry if I offended counselors, but no, not all are great just because you work in a school. There are abusive teachers, incompetent counselors, lousy administrators, lazy janitors, corrupt security guards…

    I understand we are under assault from a powerful ideological campaign to demonize public officials, but that doesnt mean I’m giving a free pass to myself or everybody else who works in this difficult situation. We can just as easily become part of the problem as part of the solution.

    Forget testing, which is not their job. Reality check: Skyline was infamous for scheduling problems these past 5 years. Surely that is not only the counselors’ fault, but do they bear any responsibility?

  • Nonie Reyes

    As a counselor employed by OUSD for a total of 8 years, 2 of which were served at Skyline HighsSchool (2008-2010) and then was laid off in June 2010, I wished to add a few comments. Without a doubt I agree with the statement that just because someone does a job it does not mean he/she will necessarily do it well. I must add though I have observed over the years both teahcers and counselors who perhaps are lacking in some areas but instead of the district working out a plan of professional development and support to allow for improvements and then, if there is no improvement, the commencement of a process of transition out of that position, I see educators who are not effective languishing and being shuffled from one site to another and all the while impacting our youth in a negative way.

    But that scenario in no way justifies the elimination of counseling or teaching positions. The majority of educators are dedicated and hard-working; for the salary we get, believe me, we do the work for the love of education and many counselors do our work because we seek to challenge institutionalize racism and social inequities. The Administrators at Skyline are extremely overworked and even if they had had the training to be counselors (most administrators do NOT have this training however) they do not have the time to handle the proactive duties that a counselor does.

    On a personal note, I loved my years working with the students of OUSD. When I arrived at Skyline High School, having previously worked at Havenscourt where now there are NO COUNSELORS, I thought I had found my spot. I wanted to stay at Skyline until I retired (ha