By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
The district: Saddleback Valley Unified School District issued hundreds of layoff notices and put popular programs and services on the chopping block in the face of a potential $19 million deficit next year. About 145 positions across the district — including classroom teachers, counselors and school librarians — may be cut, as well as vocal music in elementary schools, sports, bus transportation, K-3 class size reduction, the elementary-level Language Arts Assistance Program, and the high school International Baccalaureate program. The district also plans to cut 11 counselors. Laguna Hills High School's funding for sophomore counseling has been frozen in response to budget cuts, so it can no longer offer sophomores an opportunity to meet individually with a counselor to plan academic schedules and for college. Instead, counselors meet with sophomores as a group in their history classes. California ranked 50th in the country in 2005 for counselors, with a ratio of 970 to 1.
Student Ginny Sklar, 17, a senior
Helpful isn't a big enough word when it comes to my counselors. I'm probably in here every day with a question about college applications, scholarships, or asking for a letter of recommendation. Because of my counselors, I heard about Girls State, a weeklong program where they re-create the political system of California. Because of that experience I was able to get internship opportunities and experience for my future career.
I want to study politics and international relations. I have been accepted by four colleges — Sacramento State, Cal Poly, New York University and Drew University in New Jersey — and I am hoping to hear soon from Columbia and Brown.
I was able to meet with my counselor one-on-one as a sophomore before the cutbacks. My mom came and asked a million questions. A lot of people use private college counselors and spend $1,200 to $4,000. It's very expensive. I probably had something comparable to that for free from counselors at this school.
I don't think I would have gotten through school without my counselors. And because college is so competitive, I don't think I would have known that I had so many options available to me without them.
Counselor Julie Minekime, Saddleback Valley Education Association
Because of budget cuts, we've gone from sitting down individually with a kid and their parents to going into a classroom with 38 kids and no parents. We worry about the information getting home. Now they've proposed cutting even more counselors. If that happens, our school would have 1.5 counselors next year with 1,800 kids. It's ridiculous!
Counselor Monique Yessian, Saddleback Valley Education Association
With our economy the way it is, many families are falling apart. There are financial issues. Parents are splitting up, and students need to work to contribute to the household. Who's working to help kids with all their emotional issues? It's us — the school counselors. The number of students needing us has increased because kids have so many personal issues to deal with. But who will help them when counselor positions are cut?