Budget Cuts Have a Human Impact Schools & Kids, posted by Al Cohen, a resident of the Del Prado neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm
At a recent Amador Valley School Site Council meeting, the committee discussed the wide ranging implications of the budget cuts to the campus.
As we were reviewing the dreary outlook given the cuts, the subject of counselor reductions were broached.
A recent incident was discussed in which a student came to school with suicidal tendencies. They spent 4 hours with a counselor. Various resources were called in to help mitigate this critical situation and subsequently the student was dissuaded of their impulse.
Upon discussing this with the administration, the following comments were made that I feel is critical to share with the community.
"I think an important point is that parents use the
counselors as resources for their families outside of the school or
academic reasons. Often times, a parent will call stating that their
son/daughter has mentioned they are suicidal or their son/daughter won't
get out of bed and they need our help. Frequently, the student has stated
they are suicidal at home and the parents will bring them into the school
counselor first thing in the morning for the counselor's
I just think that
often times, community members don't realize that counselors are also
supporting the social/emotional needs of our youth that have an impact on
academics but are not directly related. I think they counseling pertains specifically to
academic guidance counseling"
The community needs to be madw aware that these cuts have real human consequences beyond expense reduction. An extra counselor, potentially can mean a real difference in a students life.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 2:25 pm
Several thoughts some up...
- The implication you seem to be making is that this student would have committed suicide if the student to counselor ratio is increased.
- A subset of parents are utilizing counselors for private services beyond the job they are hired to do on taxpayer dollars? This sounds like an argument for why the counseling staff should be reduced! What would have happened if the counselor had not been able to talk that student out of suicide?! Lawsuits!!!
Posted by Another Gatetree Resident, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:37 am
Jerry -- I ditto your remarks! Add to it -- if "their son/daughter won't get out of bed and they need our help," I suggest enforcing truancy laws.
Truancy is any intentional unauthorized absence from compulsory schooling. The term typically describes absences caused by students of their own free will, Not getting out of bed fits that description!
Posted by Who are you people, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2009 at 6:02 pm
Why is just about everything on this board proceeded by negative accounts and attacks? Most led by "stacey". You are not the voice of our community! Is their anyone with a positive outlook and attitude towards solving our challenges that read these blogs? If our community truly reflects these bloggers opinions, we might as well give up.
Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for your incite. Those of us who live in the real world know that we must ALL embrace our young people and do whatever we can do for our children.
For Stacey and her compatriots, we know you don't represent our community!
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 15, 2009 at 7:22 pm
Who are you people,
It is obvious you have not read what I have been writing on the many threads on this subject. I have not partaken in any negative attacks against teachers or administrators. Quite the contrary, I've lamented the conflation of such negative perceptions with the budget issue. So which "negative accounts and attacks" are you suggesting that I've lead? If you call THAT living in the real world, you can have it. No wonder kids rebel against their parents.
Posted by Jerry, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 2:08 am
Who are you people,
If you're refering to my remarks, so be it. I'll only say you sound as though you are one of those that believes "society" must be the fix all for everyone's problems...
If you look closely you will find that we "All" do embrace our young people through the opportunity to obtain an education(at the elementary through college level)as well as access to many social/sports programs unrelated to education that will assist in preparing them to face a world where they will be expected to pull their weight. All these opportunities are "embraced" through the use of public and/or private funds...
I'm certainly willing, to a point, to "do whatever we can for our children". However, I draw the line at providing assistance to get a lazy person out of bed. In my opinion, if a parent lacks that respect from their child then the problem isn't with the young person, it's with the parent. I refuse to assume that as one of my responsibilities...
You can buy into the "It takes a village" if you desire but I'll stick with "It takes strong, responsible parents". The "village" is there to provide all the above mentioned opportunities... In my opinion, thats the "real world"...
Those are my personal opinions and I certainly don't pretend to "represent our community"...
By the way, what's your outlook and attitude towards solving our challenges. Please share...
Posted by Resident again, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 11:17 am
Our schools are responsible for educating our kids, that's it. They are not responsible for providing free counseling services that should be given by a qualified psychiatrist. If a child is suicidal, or has any emotional problems that have nothing to do with school, they should be in the care of a professional, a psychiatrist or something like that.
We should not use our schools as institutions to solve all our problems. So what is Al suggesting? Let the schools be the parents now? I think that would be a bad idea.
I can't imagine the lawsuits against PUSD if a counselor fails to give proper advice to a student. Please remember that some disturbed students may be in need of medication, something a qualified professional should take care of, not a school counselor!
The parents who bring a suicidal child to school should be referred to the nearest psychiatric facility, and if they refuse to do so, by all means call CPS - do not try to solve the problem at school: you are not responsible and will be liable if something happens to that student on your watch.
Posted by momof2, a resident of the Pleasanton Valley neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 11:18 am
"Lazy kids who won't get out of bed...."
I'm truly thankful that some of you have not ever dealt with a member of your family with long or short term mental health issues. Sure there are those few kids, and adults, who love to sleep in, and who take advantage of a way to sleep in - be it a parent who leaves well before dawn to commute, or a parent who doesn't insist on rules.
BUT for many, many of these kids, or adults, who are dealing with significant mental health diseases and struggle daily with just getting through life, your dismissive comments about laziness show a profound lack of understanding and compassion. A student who cannot face the world, the demands and high pressures of school and teachers, let alone their peers, who is even potentially suicidal, is not going to jump out of bed to be at a 7 am class.
I have 2 students currently in PUSD. They both have significant mental health struggles, as bright as they are - (very high intelligence and very high test scores, by the way) - who need every ounce of support they get from us as parents, their teachers, their private (paid out of pocket) psychiatrists, their (thank god for health insurance) private counselors, and yes, their school counselors - paid for by all of our tax dollars.
Private counselors and psychiatrists do a world of good, and yes there are some who are available for those without sufficient funds or health insurance, but none of them can help the student negotiate with teachers, administration, college prep, peer situations and classwork like a school counselor. These counselors do an incredible amount of work to ensure the health, safety, academic success and life skills preparation of our next generation. So you want to cut them back? You don't mind the occasional suicide, perhaps? The risk-taking behavior of a student who can't figure out how to get help, and so they drink, or do drugs, and then get behind a wheel and end up taking someone else's life??
The future of our country is in the hands of our youth, which is in the hands, yes - first and foremost - of parents - but parents who are only fallible humans, and need the further help and support of an education system that values the student above all.
I cringe when I think of the short-sighted thinking that reniges on our promise to leave the world a better place for our children - and doesn't put their money - even a parcel tax - where their mouth is about wanting a better educated, better equipped generation to follow us. How will we solve energy or economic or diplomatic problems without supporting our - all of our - children? Who do you want building the next generation of cars or roads, starting industries, making medical advances?
I'm sure any district - with any kind of bureaucracy - has a little fat in the budget. Just for goodness sake - for the sake of our future, keep the fat trimming far, far away from those who directly help our children - be they in the classroom, or in a counselor's office.
Posted by Lori, a resident of the Parkside neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 11:29 am
After working in a school counseling office, I came to appreciate the many difficult situations that arise in the middle school age group. There are real problems with depression and tough life transitions like divorce, drug use, social interaction, etc. that can make it difficult to get a child to school.
The counselors are at a school to help the student with their academic progress, but to also help recognize difficult situations and help the student and family to find resources for their particular difficulty, which can include anything from outside behavioral counseling to tutoring to crisis management. It is a very broad and not well defined job, because they always have to be prepared for the unexpected, from the students as well as the parents. (and sometimes the parents present the greater challenge!) These dedicated professionals help provide a service to assist the other administrators who also must deal with discipline, facility and staff issues. There are also child welfare personnel within PUSD who deal with truancies and help direct parents to sources of help.
It takes alot of diverse people to run a successful school and it is always difficult to decide which of those people are "expendable". Our Pleasanton schools are excellent because of the people who work at them. If an individual would like to experience what it takes to keep 1500-2500 students attending school and achieving their educational goals at the middle or high school level, spend a day in the counseling office.
Although my children are long out of PUSD, I would be the first one to vote for a parcel tax to keep our schools properly funded instead of picking on school counselors and necessary support staff to eliminate.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 12:00 pm
Back up. No one is talking about eliminating academic counselors. The talk is about reducing their numbers. The implication is that a student would commit suicide if the numbers were reduced. Who can prove that?
Are academic counselors trained for the mental health job parents are expecting of them? Why not change their job titles and pay them higher salaries then?
Speaking of short-sighted thinking that renegs on leaving the world a better place for our children, why do these bond measures keep passing that pass on our debt to our children, their children, and their grandchildren?
"(and sometimes the parents present the greater challenge!)"
Well that's the root of the problem that no one likes to talk about, isn't it? That's why there's fat in school budgets.
Posted by Lori, a resident of the Parkside neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm
Stacey, we don't need to change a counselors job title, because PUSD also provides school psychologists to help with the mental health issues. And you are right, there are no guarantees that a school counselor or psychologist will be able to prevent all teen suicides. But when one occurs, the general public does wonder how that child did not get the help they needed--which usually comes back to the school because that's where kids spend a good portion of their day. How many counselors does Amador/Foothill have for their 2500+ students? Can we afford to ask one person to be responsible for more than 500 students? They seem to be handling it pretty well at this point because every student does not need them every day. But to take away any academic counselor would require the remaining counselors to take on that much more. With the need for applying to colleges and for financial aid (which will probably be even more necessary in this economy), who will be available to guide the parents and students through that maze?
Posted by And so it goes....., a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 1:37 pm
I truly do not believe you understand the points being made. You 'read' more into a post than is there. You add nothing in terms of a positive solution or how to best handle this budget crisis in our schools. So, what do you think should be cut?
Stop before you answer please. Truly think about it, especially in light of the fact that you would be against any new 'tax' or other fiancial support for the district.
And once you have your list of 'cuts' for our schools - tell us how those changes will benefit the students, or at least will not negatively impact them in any way.
Well said...and obviously a person that understands what a 'day in the life' of a counselor's office is all about.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm
"I truly do not believe you understand the points being made. You 'read' more into a post than is there. You add nothing in terms of a positive solution or how to best handle this budget crisis in our schools. So, what do you think should be cut?"
I think you haven't read everything I've written on this subject, which would be difficult anyway given that it is spread out over several different threads.
Positive solutions I've written elsewhere: The problem originates at the State level. The Governator is proposing cuts to district revenue limits. Write your legislator and ask them to consider the education financing reforms proposed by the Legislative Analysts Office. Cut categorical spending and reform it. Review mandates. Web Link and Web Link
As for what I think should be cut? That is difficult to say considering that we haven't been given all the facts yet. K-3 CSR is a program likely we will want to preserve given studies backing up the cost benefit of it. The LAO had additional words about K-3 CSR funding. Apparently the way it is implemented at the State level currently results in a higher cost for administering it than with LAO's proposed funding reforms! I couldn't find any information online regarding cost benefits of ninth grade CSR. Nor could I find anything regarding cost benefits of PE teachers for elementary school teachers. I encourage everyone to expect the district to provide evidence of the cost benefits of other programs on the proposed cut list that would be detrimental if we lost.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm
Note that these positive solutions I support will be beneficial for all of California's children, not just our own.
How do we close the local funding gap if the State can't? I've written else where about the strings that need to be attached to any proposed parcel tax. Why should the district receive a windfall if their State funding returns to adequate levels?
Posted by long time resident, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Jan 16, 2009 at 10:19 pm
I don't know whether we need to reduce the counselors at the high school or not - I'm sure there are people who are more qualified to decide that. However, we do need to start taking responsibility for our actions as a society. Stop blaming everyone else and depending on everyone else to solve all our problems. Schools are there to EDUCATE our youth but somehow they've become the institution to fix everything. Parents need to stop being their kid's friend and start being their parent. Stop feeding our youth with violence in movies and video games. Stop giving them a drug to fix everything and stop giving them an easy way out for all their actions. Stop coddling them. I know it's not easy when a mental health issue exists in the home but we all know that decreasing the number of counselors at a school is not going to affect an individual suicide attempt. There are plenty of psychologists and doctors that should be preceding the work of one school counselor with an individual that is contemplating suicide. One thing that could greatly impact the mental health of our Pleasanton youth is to have parents INVOLVED in their life. Continue to ask questions - know what's going on in their lives. Huge numbers of Pleasanton teenagers are drinking and using drugs on a regular basis. Where are the parents? Where are the police? When the youth in this town are affecting their mental stability with alcohol and drugs - and are caught by the police - there is no action taken. Sometimes not even a call to the parents. That is wrong. Let young people be responsible for their actions. They won't have so much time to contemplate why their life is horrible enough to want to end it.
Posted by James, a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 17, 2009 at 11:08 am
It certainly seems like you have a lot of time on your hands. I would encourage you to become an expert in school financing. Spend some time pouring over the 4 inch thick PUSD budget, attend educational workshops on school budget and memorize all the info on the Ed Source web site and join some PUSD committees. Until you have done your homework, and only then will your opinions be credible and respected. And while you are at it - get some education on State budget as well. It will be a long time until ther is any kind of "windfall".
Posted by John, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Jan 17, 2009 at 4:44 pm
These parents should seek private counseling service or seek help from county services if they can't afford it. These counselors serve very little purpose in schools and schools probably won't need anymore than 1 FTE for the entire district. Let's keep these unnecessary spending off the limited budget and eliminate all the counseling positions.
Posted by Frustrated, a resident of the Avila neighborhood, on Jan 19, 2009 at 11:33 pm
Could it be the schools have become "the institution to fix everything" because they've allowed it to happen, for whatever reason...
Maybe schools are so important because they are a wonderful place to nurture and teach the whole child? Any fool can see that for a child to be successful he/she needs to have positive interactions with many adults. Middle school and high school students, in particular, have a hard time communicating with their parents. What should a parent do if his child will not talk to him but will talk to a school counselor? To underestimate the importance of a school - to a child - is naive to say the least. It is very easy now, to look back with the experience of an adult and say that schools are responsible to just educate. But try to remember being a teen. And, then, try to understand that the world is different now than it was when you were a teen. And even further, if you were a model child, try to have some compassion for others who have other needs. We are all interested in trimming the fat from the budget. However, we should all be aware of the potential consequences. A good school can be the world for a child, and it can make a tremendous difference. A happy, healthy (mentally and other), well educated child will be a positive force in our society and lessen the need for other services provided by the government. This is only common sense.
Posted by Jerry, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Jan 21, 2009 at 12:58 am
What's the definition of "whole child" as related to schools.
I find it hard to believe all middle and high school students find it hard to communicate with their parents. I'm not denying this doesn't happen but I can personally vouch for two average teens that had no problem communicating with their parents. This was a common occurance at the dinner table and any other time parent or teen desired. If a parent is having trouble communicating with their child, in my opinion, they should seek counsel from a professional in that field, not a school counselor. If a parent considers their child suicidal, they shouldn't drive them to school and expect a counselor to deal with the problem. Take him/her directly to a professional with expertise in the field. The same can be said when a child refuses to get out of bed. Is this a problem where a school counselor should be expected to become involved or a home problem?
In my opinion, some parents have come to expect schools to be co-parents, family psychologist, as well as provide other services that is the responsibility of the parents and the schools have gladly accepted this responsibility. As with other governmental driven institutions, once a service such as this is instituted it's expected to continue.
I would believe most people have compassion for the needs of others but schools shouldn't be expected to provide the "fix all" when it's clearly a parent responsibility. If parents provide a safe, nurturing and supportive environment in the home, in my opinion, most of the problems would be resolved before the school would be involved.
Yes, the world is different now than it was when I was a teen and the same can be said for the world when my parents were teens but with their guidance my generation prospered. So will todays teens if their parents take pride/responsibility in being parents as my parents did.