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Countdown to Crisis: College and Career Center Counselors Under Threat

Elizabeth Stein
College and Career Center counselors Natalie Douglas from Dos Pueblos, Spencer Barr from Santa Barbara, and Lindsay Woodard from San Marcos High School. (Alejandro Juarez not pictured.) All three attended the college fair on Wednesday November 1.

The entire Santa Barbara School District is at high risk of no longer having any College and Career Center counselors during the 2024-2025 school year. Presently, San Marcos, Santa Barbara, Dos Pueblos, and La Cuesta/Alta Vista high schools all have full-time college and career counselors available to students at each school. College and career counselors specifically work with students in high school to aid in personalized job searches, college applications, internships, financial aid information, and other services. This year is the third of the three year grant, so the college and career counselors are in jeopardy of potentially losing their positions as college counselors. 

Three years ago, the school district adopted a three year grant that would temporarily pay for the College and Career Center counselor wages. The grant, “Strong Workforce,” was only available for three years and it is not renewable. This means that after the three specified years in the grant have passed (2021-2024), the district is responsible for finding other ways to fund the salary for the college and career counselors. 

“When the money runs out, the District assesses its whole budget and what can be accommodated the following school year. As the budget development process for the 24-25 school year is just beginning, it is too early to say what will or will not be funded,” said the Chief of Communications at the Santa Barbara School District, Ed Zuchelli.

When the district received this grant, it was portrayed by district level administrators as a grant that would roll over into the LCAP. LCAP, also known as the Local Control and Accountability Plan, is the California Department of Education’s method of allowing districts to decide their financial budget through a three year plan. The College and Career Center counselors are not included in the LCAP. If they were, they would be permanent workers. As of now, they are not permanent workers. Instead, they are temporary employees of the SBUnified district working their way to permanency in order to continue to support students and families. 

“There is a certain demographic of students that the district is committed to serving [socioeconomically disadvantaged] who would be most hurt by the loss of this position. For a district that is so committed to equity and access, it seems illogical to terminate College and Career Center counselors,” said San Marcos College and Career Center counselor Lindsay Woodard. “I worry about students and families. For myself, I need to work. If I had to wait around until well into the summer to hear something, I don’t know how I would handle that.”

The school board is currently investigating using money from an ongoing grant titled “Career Technical Education Incentive Grant” from the Department of Education. If this grant was used for College and Career counselor wages, they could continue to be temporary employees, whereas if they were included in the LCAP, they would be permanent employee’s  just like teachers and academic counselors. If the district were to apply this grant for the college counselors, the status of whether or not they have received the grant would be unknown until the summer. This raises the question of whether or not college counselors should stay unemployed, hoping they will be able to return to their jobs, or if they are better off leaving their position to find another form of employment. 

“I want to see our District fund our positions fully. And what that means is that I want the College & Career Counselor positions to be permanent District-funded positions and not have to rely on grant funds to keep the position going,” said Santa Barbara High School College and Career Center counselor, Spencer Barr. “I am worried about myself and my family, but I am also worried about all the students at our high schools that will have a much harder time accessing support for their college and career dreams.”

Lindsay Woodard is actively engaged in the San Marcos community. She sends out weekly newsletters to all families including ongoing news and vital information concerning college and career opportunities. She hosts weekly meetings with first generation college students for grades 9-12 to supplement the social and cultural capital they may not have at home about college access and knowledge. Alongside this, she presents to classrooms all over campus with information regarding college aid and readiness. In the fall, the College and Career Center hosted many college representatives that presented their schools to hundreds of students. In the spring, Woodard is cordially inviting professionals to have “Career Talks” where all students are invited to learn more about specific careers. She has worked with over 150 students during the 2023-2024 school year. 

“Ms. Woodard walked me through the entire college process. She helped my essays stand out. As a result I have gotten accepted into Stanford, which I am thankful for her help,” said San Marcos senior, Jaden Ellison. “It would be really bad if we lost the College and Career Center. Paying someone to help with the college process costs a lot of money, but at the College and Career Center that help is free of cost.” 

Academic counselors would also be impacted with the absence of the College and Career Center. Academic counselors have large caseloads of 300 students each and without they College and Career Center counselors, they would be responsible for helping additional students with specific college applications and questions. Each year, academic counselors are busy writing letters of recommendations for seniors, providing mental health services, and planning for students’ academics. Getting rid of the college counselors would make it harder to be available for the students needing additional help during the college application process. 

“If the College and Career Center counselor position is eliminated, the Academic Counselors would not have the capacity to fill this gap. One would hope that the District would review necessary reductions in places that do not affect students directly,” said academic counselor, Cori Simpkins.

If a student, parent, or reader has been impacted by the College and Career Center, you are able to communicate with the school board. Ways to reach the Santa Barbara School District include emailing the school district through the provided emails on their website or by signing up for a public comment that would take place at the start of the school board meetings which are hosted biweekly on Tuesdays.

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Viviana Galindo, Spanish & Business Editor
Viviana Galindo is a senior at San Marcos High School and is a second year staff writer for the Kings Page. She has two dogs that she adores. Her favorite hobbies include baking and spending time with family and friends (Noelle). She loves to spend time with her nephews and her niece.
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