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Future Remains Unclear for College and Career Counselors

The college and career counselors– responsible for helping SBUSD students plan out their futures– are facing uncertainty in their own futures within the district. With the end of the Strong Workforce grant that has been in place for the past three years, schools are waiting on a plan from the district detailing how they intend to move forward. It’s possible that the fate of the college and career counselors won’t be revealed until June of this year, meaning that the uncertainty will be hanging over the counselors for the rest of the school year. 

Every year, the school district reviews their annual budget and the cycle of funds that are available to them to utilize. The governor of California delivers their budget proposal in January and the district then begins developing a plan for what programs will be offered and supported under this proposal. For the past three years, the college and career counselor position has been funded by the Strong Workforce grant and COVID relief funds. The position has always been funded by various grants and classified as a “temporary employee” with the hope that it would roll over into the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). LCAP is a three-year budget and accountability plan designed to “set goals, actions, and align resources to meet those goals

to improve student outcomes for specific student groups most challenged.” SBUSD’s current LCAP expires at the end of this school year, and the plan development for the 2024-2027 school years began at the end of February. The district will take input from students, parents, staff, and the community and work alongside the Santa Barbara County Office of Education to identify and develop goals within the LCAP for the betterment of district schools. 

While general school counselors are responsible for offering support for academics and social and emotional wellbeing, college and career counselors are purely focused on the college and career readiness aspect. In the beginning, the role existed solely at Santa Barbara High as a part-time job. Spencer Barr, our current college and career counselor, started working at Santa Barbara High 21 years ago. He began working part-time in the position he’s currently in twelve years ago, then later transitioned to full-time. The other college and career counselors for San Marcos, Dos Pueblos, and La Cuesta Alta Vista began their positions three years ago with the beginning of the Strong Workforce grant. While Barr always knew that funding for the position was going to be difficult, he had been told by the district, “for the past few years …‘Don’t worry about it, we are figuring it out.’ Maybe that’s true, but we haven’t seen anything from our side [indicating] that that’s actually true.” 

The LCAP must be written and approved by the end of June, meaning that it’s possible that the fate of the college and career counseling position won’t be announced until then. If the position did not receive funding after this year, the responsibilities would fall on the general school counselors. College and career counselors fall within the same category of traditional school counselors across the district, and some of the general counselors have been paid by COVID relief funds for the past few years as well. According to Barr, seven counselors across the district in addition to the four college and career counselors will potentially be let go at the end of this school year. Some of these 11 are looking for jobs in other districts, while others are looking for non-educational jobs as a precaution. For Barr, “the most stressful part is not knowing if there’s a future for this position…It’s almost a fear of how much of our efforts are just wasted if the position’s gone next year,” he continued, “It’s also stressful because I don’t really know what I’m going to be doing next year if that grant goes away. I could be moved up to be a school counselor at this school or I could end up at another school, I just don’t know. The unknown is not fun.” According to Barr, the best case scenario would be if the district decided to make the position permanent and full-time regardless of what’s written into LCAP, and the second best option would be for the college and career counselors to be written into LCAP as permanent district employees. 

As of now, SBUSD is in the early stages of their annual financial cycle, just beginning to review data of what has or hasn’t been working and going through budget development. The college and career counselors fall within this budget cycle. According to Lynne Sheffield, the Assistant Superintendent of Education Services, “Nothing has been decided as of yet. We’re still gathering data…so there have been no decisions as of yet…Right now is the perfect time for us to really start talking about the need to make sure we keep certain programs in place.” The district has four main goals when approaching the budgeting process: Academics, Behavior and Social Emotional, School Culture and Climate, and Special Education. College and career counselors would fall within the services provided under the academic and special education areas. Within the academics section, the objective is to prepare students to be college and career-prepared by providing meaningful, engaging, responsive, and individualized education, and within the special education sector, it is to increase the percentage of students with disabilities to reach college and career readiness. The most important section of the financial cycle occurs in May, when the budget is brought up and discussed in the capitol. “Right now the big debate is the amount of the deficit they’re dealing with. So they’ll come back in May with revisions of what they feel their priorities are, are there any cuts that they didn’t anticipate…that’s also an important part in the cycle, looking at that May date and seeing how they make any adjustments potentially,” district Communications Manager Ed Zuchelli explained. 

As we are still in the beginning of this year’s budgeting cycle, it will be a long three months for college and career counselors waiting to hear what their future is within SBUSD. Students and parents are encouraged to participate in the LCAP to share what they think is important to be covered by the budget, and this step is crucial now as the LCAP is being formed. For now, the question about what is going to happen to our college and career counselors remains. 

[Image Credit: Charley Raymond]


  • Mary Moses

    Mary Moses is a junior at Santa Barbara High School and has been a member of The Forge for three years. She also plays for the tennis team and enjoys reading, going to the beach, and spending time with friends in her free time.

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