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Special “All Hands on Deck” Edition: Our Counselors Need Your Support, Highline ESSER Funds, Attend the School Board (in person), Speak Up for Counseling Services (by letter), Elementary Counselor Role

May 14, 2021

Dear Supporter, 

Our students’ needs have never been greater.  We know the governor’s proclamation to open buildings spotlighted the social-emotional needs of students.  It is frustrating to hear that as schools prepare for a fall return, some elementary students will receive fewer counseling services than before the pandemic. At secondary, counseling ratios at some schools are well beyond the 250:1 ratio, as recommended by the American School Conselor Association.  More than ever, we need one fulltime counselor per elementary school and more support for our secondary students.  

Our very own Chaz Tarimel, counselor at Glacier Middle School, was interviewed this week by KUOW on these issues. 

We also know that our districts have received an infusion of funds targeted at mitigating the longstanding neglect of our most marginalized communities.  Highline Public Schools is anticipated to receive more than $84 million dollars of ESSER funding to support student learning as well as school community’s health needs.  Our district is among the highest recipients in the state.

Counselors are asking for your support now.  We must advocate individually and as school communities for our students’ mental health needs.  The district is using demographer projections to impose counselor cuts at several elementary schools. In addition, a number of our secondary schools operate with substantially higher caseloads, for example, Sylvester, Glacier, Aviation and Mt. Rainier.  

With budget planning underway, we are at a critical juncture.  Bridging the funding gap with ESSER money makes even more sense with additional funding on the way in 2022-23 (recent legislation has added .5 counselor per high needs schools based on the proto-typical school model). 

Sign up and speak at the May 19 school board meeting at 6:00PM and let the district know we want ESSER money to be spent on counseling support for our students.  To sign up to speak, email Kyle Minaglia  by noon on May 19.  You can also email your statement to this address by noon and it will be read at the board meeting.  Speakers who sign up ahead of time are given 4 minutes to speak. 

You can also send your communication directly to school board members.

Below are excerpts from a letter shared with me by one of our counselors along with a video that I encourage you to view and share widely.  I am publishing it here in hopes that it might help in our advocacy efforts. 

Thank you and see you at the school board meeting on May 19.  If you do write a letter to the board, please cc me.  

In solidarity, 

Sandy

PS Ballotpoint ballots for HEA Officers can be found in your personal email. Please check your spam filter if you do not see it.  Voting closes at 5:30 today. Thank you for taking the time to participate in this election!

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Counselor Advocacy. Recognizing the socio-political and health impact from these past few years on the lives of our students, the elementary school counselors in Highline ask that you take a few moments to better understand the scope and impact of the work they do, in hopes for a fully funded Comprehensive Elementary Counseling Program for 2021 and beyond. 

They invite you to view this short video HPS Elementary Counseling Program 2021  created by one of our elementary counselors, with input from our group. If you’d like to read more about the role of elementary school counselors, more information (below) has been provided by Lisa Reasner, Elementary Co-Lead for our counselors.

Elementary Counselor Role and Duties.  The elementary school counselor role addresses all areas of “Our District Promise”:  Equity, Instruction, Relationships and Support.

  • School Counselors are dedicated to serving the whole child: social-emotional, personal, academic, & career (American School Counseling Assn.)
  • OSPI acknowledges that school counselors play a critical role in the development and success of all students.  OSPI recently stated, “This year, as we continue to experience a public health crisis that is increasing students’ needs for social-emotional and mental health support, school counselors must work with all support staff to provide the services our students, families, staff and communities need during these challenging times. They truly must be ‘All in for All Students’!”
  • Within the framework of class lessons, small group counseling & 1:1 counseling we are supporting students by helping them to develop an awareness of their personal and cultural identity, understanding themselves, identifying and regulating emotions, strengthening interpersonal relationships and social skills (i.e., conflict management, problem assessment and solving skills), and providing knowledge/tools to support personal mental health.

Additional Counselor Roles/Duties:

  • K-5 classroom counseling lessons (i.e. Second Step, RULER, Suicide Prevention, Bullying Prevention, Child Protection/Safety, social-emotional awareness, etc.)
  • Small group counseling on variety of topics
  • Crisis support/response (including response to Go Guardian and Gaggle concerns, e.g. self-harm/suicide ideation, cyber bullying)
  • Individual counseling
  • Collaborating with families to support student growth
  • Parent coaching
  • Teacher collaboration and support
  • Referral to & collaboration with community based support services
  • McKinney Vento (homeless) / Foster Care resources / Student-Family Stability Initiative (SFSI) building liaison (housing)
  • Connecting families for resources such as food, housing assistance, medical, clothing, school supplies and various community agencies
  • Lead/serve on a variety of teams:  Family Support/Engagement, Student Support/Intervention Teams, MTSS, PBIS/SEL, Attendance Team, Equity Team.
  • Delivering professional development & adult learning opportunities for staff and parents
  • Majority of elementary counselors are the Section 504 Accommodation Plan Coordinator
  • Lead/point person for Social-Emotional Learning Screener (either DESSA or Panorama)
  • Technical support: ordering/issuing hot spots & Comcast codes/connection
  • Middle School registration & 5th-to-6th grade transition