Monday, March 29, 1999

Hughes to lose guidance team

Budget cuts to cost counselor jobs

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For tips about what classes to take, information on college admissions and advice on boyfriend troubles, 17-year-old senior Geneva Stiles goes to one place — her school's guidance counselors' office.

        But proposed budget cuts would eliminate Hughes High School's two counselors.

        Hughes and 78 other Cincinnati public schools were asked to cut budgets by $180 per student as part of the district's efforts to carve $20 million from its 1999-2000 budget.

        Hughes, which enrolls 1,800 students, will give up $400,000 to $450,000 next year, depending on enrollment, said Sue Taylor, chairwoman of Hughes' instructional leadership team.

        Ms. Taylor and other Hughes officials also eliminated an assistant principal, a visiting teacher and two science teachers/coaches. Schools' budgets now are under district review and will be approved when the school board adopts a 1999-2000 budget, which it hopes to do next month.

        But few cuts drew as much anger as those of the two guidance counselors.

        “We're concerned about giving up those positions — in an ideal world, we would have those types of support personnel because they're important,” Principal Bob Suess said. “But we recognize that the greatest impact we have on students is in the classroom, and we tried to minimize the impact of the cuts on classroom instruction.”

        Ms. Taylor agreed: “We wanted to keep as many teachers in the classroom as possible and keep class size down.”

        The instructional leadership team narrowly approved the school's budget; Ms. Taylor dissented.

        Guidance counselors act as academic overseers, working with students to make sure they take the right classes to graduate on time. In many cases, they do much more, linking students and families with social services and offering students a safe place to talk about their problems.

        “In ninth grade, I was going up there like once a week or so to talk,” said Geneva, whose counselor recently helped get a college entrance test fee waived. “I don't go so often anymore, but they really helped me get through school.”

        School board members last week questioned the cut, and Superintendent Steven Adamowski promised to review Hughes' budget.

        But Mr. Adamowski said second-guessing school decisions betrays the district's goal of decentralizing and giving schools more autonomy.

        One parent said the anticipated loss of counselors has made her consider removing her son from CPS schools.

        “I need a child advocate, somebody who's going to look out for my child,” said Deborah Brooks, 44, of Paddock Hills, whose son James will be a Hughes freshman this fall. “It's almost like they're running me out of the district. You tell me if they would put their own child in a high school that has no guidance counselors.”


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