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Philly groups file blanket complaint on counselor shortage

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 18, 2013 12:05 AM

Parents United for Public Education and Philly School Counselors United filed a complaint with the Department of Education Thursday saying that Philadelphia chidlren are being denied an adequate education due to the counselor shortage in city schools.

"The lack of counselors impedes the ability of teachers to deliver as effectively instructional services," according to the complaint, filed with the help of the Public Interest Law Center of Pennsylvania (PILCOP). 

The complaint recounts instances from several schools in which students did not receive counseling services, emphasizing the insufficient help in applying to high schools and college.

"The lack of counselors has produced a crisis for parents of students facing a transition year which is widespread and pressing," the complaint says. "Deadlines are approaching or have passed -- parents who know about them have asked for assistance to no avail. Many are frightened and feeling desperate."

It also detailed incidents in which students needed emotional help and it wasn't available, including for two students who returned to school after losing their mothers, one who is homeless, and another who needed help to cope with bullying.

In addition, a staffer filed a complaint from E.W. Rhodes, which received students from five other schools that were closed in June. Not all their records came with them; the counselor would normally handle that.

Among the nearly 4,000 employees originally laid off to help the District close its budget gap were all 292 counselors. Superintendent William Hite later restored 126 of them, but only schools with a population of more than 600 got a full-time counselor. More than 100 schools have been sharing 16 "itinerant" counselors that travel from school to school. 

This week Hite said he would recall 80 more counselors now that the state has released $45 million. But this will still not put a full-time counselor in every school, although Hite said that every high school, regardless of size, would have one. Parents United has also led a campaign for parents and school staff to file complaints with the state detailing lack of services in city schools. So far, more than 700 have been filed.

At Thursday night's School Reform Commission meeting, several parents pleaded for more counselors at their children's schools. 

 

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Comments (5)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:29 am
Anybody know when those 80 counselors are going to be recalled? Laid off HS counselor/current teacher here who would really like to be doing what I do best.
Submitted by Mrs. T (not verified) on October 18, 2013 1:13 pm
Since they are not filling vacancies according to seniority, you may or may not get rehired. :( I hope you get back soon though.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 2:08 pm
Maybe I should email the principal and flat out ask if I am coming back. If it is not by seniority, will it be a free-for-all then? Should every laid off counselor be sending emails with resumes to all the schools that are getting counseling positions back? I don't know if the school I am teaching at is getting a counselor, but maybe I should go to the main office and ask? Put in for the job. It would be nice if 440 realized that SCORES of counselors are waiting on pins and needles to see what will happen, and let us know. Luckily, I am working. I got a paycheck last week, and am getting another one next week. I have good/free health insurance. The laid off counselors sitting at home do not and have to wait for a measly $500 a week or so unemployment check.
Submitted by Mayday (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:39 pm
I was in a K-5 school with 500 students. They now have a counselor for three HOURS a week. This "service" does not begin to deal with the many needs of our foster and homeless populations, not to mention our many IEP students. Forget about Peer Mediation and the anti-bullying program....gone. But we don't need a full time counselor, right? We're "only" a K-5. 500 kids left in the dust while the powers that be cover their butts on high school and college applications. Tell me, where will my K-5 kids be applying after 6 years of no one to help them with their social, emotional, and academic needs?
Submitted by Helen Gym on October 19, 2013 5:33 pm

HI Mayday: If your school has an HSA or parent group, we (Parents United for Public Education) is happy to come out and speak with parents about the complaints process. Email me at parentsunitedphila@gmail.com.

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