HART HIGH COUNSELORS PROTEST STAFFING CUTBACK.
SAUGUS - An emotional group of high school counselors pleaded with the Hart school board this week to maintain their staffing level despite declining enrollment.
Kathy Kniest, a counselor at Hart High School for nine years, said the counseling staff will be reduced from seven to six, with counselor Christine Underwood, who has the lowest seniority, reassigned to one of the district's new schools - West Ranch or Golden Valley.
``During the 1976 collective bargaining, the student/counselor ratio was set at 430 to 1. In that time, our workload has increased and we're not dealing with the same issues,'' Kniest said.
Enrollment at Hart is projected to decrease in school year 2005-06 from 2,839 to 2,698 because of the new campuses.
``The magic number is 2,796 to get another counselor,'' said Mike von Buelow, assistant superintendent of personnel for the William S. Hart Union High School District. ``Because staffing and ratios are negotiable items, it's typically taken care of at the bargaining table. It's awkward to make a concession in a case like this. We're in negotiations with both the certificated and classified employees now and that's not on the table.''
Von Buelow said the district is considering changing the ratio for psychologists, not counselors at this point.
``Everything can't come to the table every time. They have to pick and choose their issues,'' he said.
Kniest said boundary changes anticipated in 2007 might call for the reinstatement of the seventh counselor position, but von Buelow said he could not find statistics to support that claim.
``We work as a team,'' Kniest said. ``We have an open-door policy, we have night counseling. We have Padres Unidos, a program that works with our Spanish-speaking parents. If we lose our seventh counselor, it creates an unreasonable workload on those remaining.''
The cut will increase workload, which will discourage those who need help to ask for it, she said.
``If adults appear too busy or inaccessible, it's hard to believe students or parents will come forward. When they reach out for help, they won't be able to come to us.''
Board member Gloria Mercado-Fortine said she thought Hart High's ethnic diversity presented special circumstances that might cause closer examination of the counselor staffing.
``There is a compelling case to keep the seventh counselor,'' she said. ``We love to brag about how well we're doing. Hart is the most diverse campus in the district. It should be out of control. They have gangs, it's no secret. They have the largest number of language learners. But there are no problems we can see because they are being taken care of by the counseling staff.''
She pointed out that the board was considering other fiscal commitments that could be changed to allow for the additional position.
``No disrespect intended to Saugus, but we're talking about spending money to send students to China,'' Mercado-Fortine said of an exchange student program. ``We need to focus on taking care of our own students.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 7, 2005|
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