Proposed 2018-19 Budget Cuts Will Impact Berkeley High
Facing a $1.8 million budget shortfall in 2018-19, BUSD has proposed cutting at least one academic guidance counselor, the Dean of Attendance, and four Safety Officers. These resources serve ALL student populations, and losing these staff members will overburden the remaining staff. The PTSA is calling on on BHS parents to become informed and take action. We encourage you to write the District’s decision makers and Board members. The following link has a sample letter and mailto link: http://bhs.berkeleypta.org/action/no-bhs-cuts-letter

PTSA Interview with Teri Goodman, Counselor

The proposed Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) budget for 2018-19 will cut at least one of BHS’s eight academic counselors. The intent of this PTSA interview with counselor Teri Goodman is to inform the BHS community about the many roles that academic counselors perform on campus.

BHS is likely to lose counselors to budget cuts again, what happened last time? Prior to 2008, BHS had 10 academic counselors. When the District had to make budget cuts, it proposed cutting 8 of them and leaving us with only 2, but thanks to community efforts we managed to hang on to 8 counselors.  Unlike other cut positions that were eventually restored, BHS never got its two counselors back, so we've been at 8 counselors ever since.  

You were a math teacher. Why did you decide to become a counselor? I knew how valuable counselors are to students. I loved being a teacher, but as a counselor I can have a bigger impact and positively change students lives more than I could teaching one subject.  
 
What sorts of impacts do academic counselors have on students? Students benefit from adult guidance, and academic counselors have the skills to steer students towards good choices that improve their future prospects. Research shows that having more academic counselors in a high school will increase its students’ success in high school and college as well.

If research supports their value, why do you think BUSD undervalues its counselors? A big part of the problem is that people don’t know what we do. They’re familiar with what teachers do; they know someone has to run the school so they have some idea of what administrators might do; but what counselors do is more mysterious. Academic counselors’ critical role in student success is not well understood, and there are misconceptions about what we do. It’s easy to assume we mostly hang out with kids and spend time talking to them, but what we’re really doing with students is solving problems. People think kids should be in class, not realizing that the time kids spend with counselors enables them to remain in class and to be successful in class when they’re there.

Many of us never interacted with our high school counselors. Has the role changed in the past 20+ years? The role has been continually changing over the past 30 years. It’s changed since I became a counselor 18 years ago, and at that time it had significantly changed from the time I was in high school.

How has the counselor role evolved? I don’t know everything that counselors did years ago, but they scheduled kids, had higher caseloads, and were more involved in discipline. The shift in their role has come with an increased understanding of the barriers kids face and their need for on-campus support to overcome them. Counselors have evolved to be the ones who help kids so they don’t drop out, help them handle the traumas in their lives, help them do better in school if that’s what they want, and we address their emotional needs so they can focus in class when they’re there.

Can you shed more lights on their emotional needs? The world is becoming more complicated and kids are increasingly more aware of its complexities. Every study is showing that social media is increasinging kids’ anxiety and depression. Because information is so available now, our kids are not sheltered the way kids were in the past. They’re aware of the dramas and traumas in the world and their community. The realities they’re navigating have an impact on them. There’s more drama in their lives and that of their peers, they see more disparities among their peers, and some of them are experiencing real trauma in their lives on a daily basis.

Do counselors address mental health issues and are they trained to do so?  Counselors are doing more because mental health services at BHS have decreased. Academic counselors have a masters degree in counseling and a State counseling credential, so we have training to respond to student crises when they occur. Of course we don’t have the time to provide any students with ongoing mental health therapy because we have hundreds of students in our caseloads. But when something comes up, like a suicidal student or the death of someone students know, we drop what we have have planned for the day and address the students’ needs. Any time something big happens, kids come to us and talk about it. This year national politics has been on a lot of students’ minds.

What about students that don’t come to you?  Our goal is to do outreach to all of our students, but our caseloads are so big that most often we’re triaging the referrals we get from parents, teachers, administrators, and other students. My goal is to call in every 9th grader during the first two months of school, and I failed to do so this year because it’s been so chaotic and more students have needed emotional support.

Can you describe a situation where as a counselor you’ve changed a student’s life? I work closely with undocumented students and help them transfer to college. It’s an incredibly complicated process and it’s important everything be done accurately. And it’s not just the applications, many complications arise along the way. It would be next to impossible for the students to manage it all without experienced help. We counselors work as a team to identify and support these students, but it’s my area of expertise so I know all of these students. Counselors get them information about the colleges, help them get their applications off, help them get the money they need, and these students go off and succeed because of the work we do here.

Thank you Ms. Goodman, and may the Force be with you.  

This 2016 article in The Atlantic describes how high school students greatly benefit in schools whose academic counselors have smaller caseloads. Unfortunately high school academic counselors are undervalued nationwide.
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/09/the-neglected-link-in-the-high-school-to-college-pipeline/500213/