Open letter: School counselors ask for community support

Madison Middle School counselor Lauren Divina asked to share this with the community, regarding a school-system budget-cut effect you might not have heard about. We are publishing her open letter in its entirety, ahead:

An urgent message from the MMS Counseling Department…..

Dear MMS Families,

Every year, we have to fight to keep school counselors in our schools and plead with our school district and state to put children’s well-being at the forefront of their priorities. Because elementary school counselors are not put in the WSS (Weighted Staffing Standard), we have had a huge RIF (Reduction-in-Force) in School Counselors across the district that will leave many Elementary Schools without a Counselor. If the district were to put elementary school counselors back in the WSS(Weighted Staffing Standard), each elementary school would be funded for a counselor based on weighted staffing funding allocation. They have chosen not to fund counselors in elementary schools and force schools to come up with a way to fund counselors. Many schools do not have the money so they had to let go of their counselors. This move by the district is all in the name of saving money but what it ends up doing is hurting lives.

Many School Counselors, who have been in the district up to 8 years, are losing their jobs and those schools are losing their School Counselors. The RIF’s that continue to haunt our school district threaten the continuity that each of our schools have established and forces our children to experience more transitions and feelings that our district is abandoning their most essential needs. In a recent Seattle Times article regarding Seattle Schools, Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield wrote in an e-mail to the Seattle School Board, “Student safety and well- being is our top priority”. This statement continues to be empty and year after year, our districts’ actions do not coincide with their so-called “priorities”. Recent events in our city have proven that our students are not feeling safe and our students are not becoming adults with conflict resolution and life skills. Our goal should be to pour resources into pro-active services so that we can prepare students for civic life and to have skills to work with others. Eliminating school counselors will make this goal very hard to achieve. When we are not pro-active, our children as well as our communities end up paying for it later.

We all know how vital a school counselor is to a child. The American School Counselor Association has set the national standard for school counselors in buildings at 1 per 250 students. In Seattle, we have schools that do not have any. We would “hope” that with all the research available and the lives that are saved and impacted on a daily basis by school counselors would show the district the need for counseling support in every school. We would “hope” that when choosing between a child’s well-being and their test scores that well-being would always be the priority, but hope without action is just hope. So, we are encouraging you to join us in fusing our hope and passion together with action. If we want to see change and be heard, we are going to have to make some noise. We are asking any parents, family members, or guardians who have had a School Counselor impact their child’s life to please sign up to speak at the next Seattle School Board Meeting. Students are welcome as well.

On June 6th, there is a Seattle School Board Meeting at 4:15 pm. Public testimony will begin at 5pm. We invite you to join others in signing up to speak at the Seattle School Board Meeting about the damaging effects that RIF’s will have on our children as well as the decision the district has made “not” to include School Counselors in the WSS (Weighted Staffing Standard) for Elementary Schools. Denying our children anything less than the national standard is something that our community should not and cannot accept. Below are links with information on the procedures for the Board Meetings. There is also a Board Meeting on June 20th. Please read the links below and sign up to speak at both meetings. They need to hear our voices loud and clear. Let’s stand together and fight for our children’s well being, because if we don’t, then who will?

For more information on how to sign up for public testimony, please click here.

To sign up for public testimony, members of the public should e-mail or call (206) 252-0040 and give their legal name, telephone number, e-mail address, and the topic they would like to address.Each person should check the above website on Tuesday after 5:00 pm to see where they are on the testimony list or whether they are on the waitlist.

We encourage you to please share this information with families who may not have received it.

Thank you,
Lauren Divina, Claudia Whitaker-Greenway, and Linda Mundinger
School Counselors
Madison Middle School

11 Replies to "Open letter: School counselors ask for community support"

  • Barb Vadakin May 31, 2012 (2:31 pm)

    Great letter and so true. Speak up and speak loudly!!!

  • SPS Teacher May 31, 2012 (3:30 pm)

    The louder the families, the more they listen. Thanks Ms. Divina!

  • Huh! May 31, 2012 (5:00 pm)

    Madison won a national award this year for outstanding achievement in counseling and support. Counselors are rockstars. After yesterday’s events, how can we think of nickel and diming a service critical for the mental, emotional and physical well-being of our future? In this climate of violence and bullying, counselor are there to reach out and help our kids, when parents may have no clear idea of the threat or risk. Thank you Ms Divina for helping my child.

  • Jeff May 31, 2012 (5:10 pm)

    But the question is, if we don’t cut here, where DO we cut? Ideas, Ms. Divina? Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to see counselors lost, but both sides of the coin must be dealt with, or this is neither an honest nor a productive conversation. I hope someone can find a viable answer in time to preserve these positions.

  • Huh! May 31, 2012 (6:22 pm)

    How about: a) “boutique” programs that have no data supporting their efficacy; b) >$10M in hardwired network upgrades, and temp tech staffing to build an academic “data warehouse” to support irrelevant testing for staff evaluations; c) moving towards building tests to measure “value-added” by every one including the music teacher; d) putting in new capital improvements only to rip them out 2-3 years later; e) hiring contractors and consultants with proprietary curricula that they’ll take with them when they go; f) adopting crap curricula with costly “consumables” requiring $$$ every year etc etc.

    Drop outs cost $$. Bullying and lawsuits cost $$. Teen pregnancy and failure cost $$.

    It matters where your priorities lie.

  • Charlie Mas May 31, 2012 (7:35 pm)

    Cut the central administration’s pet projects.

  • West Seattle Lifer May 31, 2012 (8:00 pm)

    WSB the link to the public testimony is not working.

  • westello May 31, 2012 (8:04 pm)

    Keep in mind, the speaker list fills up. Sign ups for the list is the Monday before the Board meeting starting at 8 am.

    In answer to Jeff, I would suggest getting rid of MAP testing before counselors. The MAP test was supposed to be a test for students and is now used as an assessment for teachers (not the same thing).
    Melissa Westbrook
    Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

  • Another SPS Teacher May 31, 2012 (9:53 pm)

    Shouldn’t counselors fight for this in their next contract negotiation? That is the time to be vocal. Families and staff can be vocal but the school board can’t just change things at the next meeting. I know other districts that use auction fundraising to fund specific positions in their schools because that is their priority.

  • parent of 3 June 1, 2012 (8:57 am)

    It seems to me that the public does have a say… the Board seems responsive to public opinion – especially when that opinion is in the right. Comprehensive Counseling in our schools needs to be a priority. It keeps children safe and focused on learning by reducing bullying, teaching students how to deal with anger and resolve conflicts in an appropriate way. School Counselors help students grow into responsible citizens and contribute to positive school climate. They are there to help in crisis – and don’t fool yourself… every school has students in crisis, and adults in crisis. It’s irresponsible to ignore the needs of our students and unreasonable to ignore the reality of the number of families in crisis when trying to educate. In West Seattle, we’re down to 2 school counselors at the elementary level – West Seattle Elementary and Pathfinder. That is unacceptable. Our children are being cheated. We need to check our priorities.

  • Huh! June 1, 2012 (10:18 am)

    Sorry another SPS Teacher, this is not yet another district responsibility to DUMP on PTSAs.

    The micromanagers on the board (yes, that’s you DeBell and Carr) make these calls. They figure, let’s cut the WSS, bump the allocation a bit and let the principals decide. That’s great if you have leadership like at Madison. But what of the schools with poor leadership, less involved families, heavier demands from central admin’s top-down management?

    It takes a village to provide a supportive, enriched learning environment for students. With principals having to deal with no space for classrooms, no $$$ to replace textbooks, no school nurse or librarian – we should not give them even less to work with.

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