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Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Budget committee considers cutting counseling staff to help funding crisis

February 6, 2002

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The Lawrence school district's budget committee Tuesday agonized about possible reductions in the guidance counseling staff.

Discussion centered on eliminating three of the district's 13.5 elementary counselors and increasing the number of schools assigned to each remaining counselor. There are 19 elementary schools, but Grant School will close in May.

Phyllis Lewin, a budget committee member, said a thinner elementary counseling staff would cause changes in their daily routines. Among other duties, they're often called upon to serve as classroom teacher substitutes and lunch monitors. Reducing the number of counselors would eliminate their availability to take on these extra responsibilities.

"That's not the purpose of a counselor," said Lewin, a junior high counselor.

The district has the equivalent of 28.5 full-time guidance counselors in the program that costs an estimated $1.4 million annually. Counselors work with students on personal, social, educational and career issues.

Fifteen of the counselors are assigned to secondary schools.

A proposal to drop a part-time counseling position at Lawrence Alternative High School received a cold reception from the committee.

"We don't even want to deal with that," said Jayne Polcyn, a committee member and elementary school teacher.

Supt. Randy Weseman formed the committee two years ago to evaluate new spending proposals and make the district more efficient. Given the state's budget woes, he's asked the committee to identify $5 million in cuts.

Other potential spending changes discussed Tuesday were tied to staffing of nurses, social workers, gifted educators and special reading and math tutors. No final decisions were made.

So far, the only proposal to come out of committee for consideration by the school board would reduce district busing costs by starting a pay-to-ride system.

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