By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
With 42 out of 68 counselors in the Los Angeles County Office of Education receiving pink slips, the counseling department that serves students in alternative school sites and ROP programs has been virtually gutted. Members of the Los Angeles County Educators Association (LACEA) fear that the students needing the most help will receive the least.
"Forty-two of us have no jobs and have been terminated for budgetary reasons," says Lori Hunzeker, a member of LACEA who received a pink slip. "They have basically wiped out the counseling program."
LACEA counselors serve specialized programs for a wide variety of student needs in more than 23 districts throughout Los Angeles County. Programs being affected by the loss of counseling positions include ROP and career technical education programs at alternative education school sites and programs for students mostly in grades 10-12 at many of the 23 districts' high schools. Additional educational programs that will be impacted include those at juvenile court schools, two public high schools, Foster Youth Services programs and community day schools.
Once the cuts are in place, there will be only 26 counselors to serve nearly 3,000 students spread throughout the county in such programs. Most of those students were unable to succeed in traditional high school settings and require a great deal of attention and follow-up.
"I have been working to get a student who is graduating from high school into CSU Northridge this year," says Hunzeker. "I talked her out of quitting high school and have helped her through the college application and financial aid process. She said, ‘Can I call you this summer if I get confused?' I said, ‘Honey, I'm not working there anymore.' These kids come to you for all kinds of personal stuff and now they may have to figure things out pretty much for themselves."
"There is a great need for the service provided by counselors," says Mark Lewis, president of LACEA. "Without counselors, students will not be aware of all the opportunities and options available to them. Our goal is for these students to become productive members of the community. This is a devastating blow."