Principal Leaves Counselors Out of Current Budget Proposal
Jason Liu & David Ramirez
May 6, 2011
Filed under News
Principal Troy Johnston has been forced to cut $1 million from the 2011-2012 school budget, a massive budget reduction he says will drastically alter the counseling program.
According to the new school plan, counselor responsibilities will be assumed by the four assistant principals. This includes creating schedules and guiding students towards graduation, among other tasks.
As a result, disciplinary roles will be assigned to two “deans,” a new position which will be staffed by teachers on special assignment. There is no word yet as to who these teachers will be but they will not do any classroom teaching, in order to focus on the discipline issues among the student body.
When deciding which programs to cut, Johnston says he has three fundamental priorities: “Keeping students as the central focus, [sustaining] the integrity of the program, and maintaining safety for students.”
However, those counselors interviewed believe their services are being undervalued.
“Without counselors, Skyline will be affected in a huge way. Much of what we do involves moving students from points of services needed to points of needs met,” said Ms. Wolfe-Visnick, the 12th grade counselor. “Any money saved will be offset by lost scholarships, lower graduation rates, frustrated students, angry parents, and scheduling errors that will be difficult to fix.”
However, Johnston said that when faced with a million-dollar budget cut, some important programs must either be canceled or severely reduced in size. Deciding to trim services such as counseling came after a careful weighing of the school’s competing needs, he said.
“Am I [laying off] five teachers, am I cutting the librarian position and two teachers, or am I cutting three assistant principals?” said Johnston, describing various possibilities he considered.
He contends this is a lose-lose situation. “These are people, and it affects their lives. It’s hard not to take it personal,” he added.
If the counselors are dismissed, many Skyline students will be immensely affected, according to some teachers and students.
“They are essential since they guide [students] through their social and economic problems,” said Ms. Lord-Walker, a veteran Skyline chemistry teacher. “The counselor is the one who guides the students who are struggling through high school.”
Senior Jackie Low believes efficient counseling is fundamental but hard to do in an overpopulated school. “It’s a difficult job because there are so many students,” said Low.
“[The counselors] don’t seem very open. The size of Skyline makes it hard for counselors to seem personable,” added Low.
Skyline usually has about 1900 students each year which means each counselor had a caseload of 400-700 students.
Possibly affected the most will be incoming seniors who rely on the counselors to guide them towards graduation, as well as for recommendations for colleges and scholarships.
Junior George Shum says that the counselors helped him immensely this year. “They helped me transfer out of classes that I did not ask for, and they also answer any of my questions,” he said.
Shum believes that the school should shrink its student population rather than cut vital services that benefit everyone on campus. “Our school is way too big, maybe we should decrease the number of entering freshmen,” he said.
Ms. Wolfe-Visnick, meanwhile, says that if she were the principal, she would keep the counselors like Oakland High and Oakland Tech are doing, but cut some members of the administration.
“We are the only high school with four [assistant principals]. I would also cut ineffective professional development as well,” she said.
As for Visnick’s future, she has no intention of leaving Skyline and planned to file a union grievance and return next year.