White Bear Area School District to hire more counselors

/ 18 April 2012 / jennifer

Kristine Goodrich, White Bear Press, April 18, 2012 –

WHITE BEAR LAKE — District 624 will hire two more guidance counselors and high schoolers will keep the same counselor for all four years.

Those were among the key changes recommended by a counseling program review committee that were approved by the District 624 School Board last week.

The district will hire the equivalent of two new counselors next school year — 1.5 at the high schools and 0.5 at Central Middle School.

The high school campuses then will have four counselors each. Each counselor will be assigned between approximately 300 to 325 students.

Currently counselors stay in the same grade level and have new students each year. Starting next year, high school counselors will retain the same students for four years.

District officials wrote in a memo to the board: “Based on review of the evidence and on successful practices in place in other districts, we believe there is compelling reason and justification to assign the counselors to stay matched with the students as they progress from ninth grade through graduation. This will offer students the consistency of one professional who can guide them through each step of the process from middle school to the entrance of a post-secondary institution.”

Central will bring on another half-time counselor, bringing the total to 2.5. Sunrise Park, which has lower enrollment, will stay at two counselors.

The district will implement the American School Counselor Association delivery model at all its guidance offices. According to the association website, the national framework recommends counselors devote 80 percent of their time to direct student contact providing a curriculum on academic and social development, assisting post-secondary planning and providing crisis response. The recommendation notes a “significant amount” of counselor training will be needed to implement the model.

The district also plans to expand student use of Naviance — software aimed at helping students establish and prepare for post-secondary goals.

In 2013-14, the district might add another counselor whose primary responsibility is helping students with college planning.

Costs for the additional staff, training and software will be offset by reductions in other district spending (see page 10).

Board members unanimously supported the recommendations.

“I don’t think the potential benefits of this plan can be overstated,” said board member George Kimball, adding it will “ensure every kid who graduates will be prepared for career and post-secondary education.”

Additional action at the April 9 School Board meeting included the following:

• Approved contracts with several employee groups for 2011-12 and 2012-13. The groups included the Superintendent’s Cabinet, Principals’ Association, Administrative Association, clerical staff and bus drivers.

• Approved several retirements, most effective at the end of the school year, including longtime teachers Barbara Bade at Willow Lane Elementary, Kathy Walcznski at Matoska International and Mary Dahle at South Campus.

• Terminated seven non-tenured teachers and a social worker, effective at the end of the school year: Ashley Beck, Anne Ellsworth, Sarah Gustafson, Sarah LeVahn, Ariel Liesch, Stephanie Maki, Daniel Peace and Vanessa Lotito-Meier. All have been with the district for three years or less. Some of them might be re-hired if vacancies arise.

• Approved agreement with The Center for Efficient School Operations to manage the district’s bus routes and other transportation system components, beginning next school year.

Several longtime members of the district’s in-house transportation department are retiring at the end of this year. District officials researched alternatives to replacing them and found that contracting with an outside provider will save the district nearly $43,000 next year.

The Center for Efficient School Operations already provides transportation oversight services for a number of area school districts. The company’s president, Chuck Corliss, is the district’s former transportation director and has worked for the district part time for the last several years.

• Hired RAK Construction to complete bathroom renovations at Sunrise Park Middle School for $157,000.

• Updated four district policies. Most changes were minor and most were made to comply with state law changes and Minnesota School Boards Association recommendations. An addition to the visitors to district buildings policy allows staff to have unauthorized vehicles towed away and indemnifies the district from any damage caused to visitors’ vehicles.

• Accepted more than $16,000 in grants and donations, including $12,000 in Glasrud teacher development grants from the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation and $2,000 from the White Bear Basketball Association to the high school basketball program.

• Staff and students from both middle schools gave presentations on the following programs: Hope for Tomorrow at Central, which pairs adult mentors with students; the eighth-grade Project Lead the Way curriculum, which focuses on robotics and automation; the after-school Lego robotics club, which started this winter; and the National Junior Honor Society, which organizes school activities and service projects.