Del Norte education officials Thursday approved the hiring an additional counselor and two counseling technicians at the elementary and middle school levels, despite requests from parents to hire K-8 two counselors instead.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Yurok Tribe and True North Organizing Network also weighed in on Del Norte Unified School District’s plans – all advocating for two more counselors instead.

In a June 18 letter, the two nonprofit organizations and the tribe noted that tribal and non-tribal citizens have requested hiring more counselors using state dollars meant for high needs students “since at least 2017.”

The logo of Del Norte Unified.

Included as part of Del Norte Unified School District’s 2019-2020 Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), hiring the two counseling technicians at the elementary and middle school levels will be a first for the district, said Steve Godla, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

This would allow a counseling professional to be at each of the district’s nine K8 schools, Godla said.

“The idea with the counseling tech would be that they could look at the data at the schools, see where the greatest need was and then have a counseling tech and a counselor share two schools,” Godla said. “Every school would have somebody there every day.”

Four trustees Thursday approved the 2019-2020 LCAP, which must be submitted to the state on June 30. School Board president Frank Magarino was absent. The California Department of Education must approve the district’s LCAP by Sept. 30, according to DNUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Jeff Napier.

The Local Control Accountability Plan is a roadmap each California school district develops documenting how additional dollars will be spent on services for high-needs students. Under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, districts receive extra funding for services for low-income students, foster students, homeless students and English language learners.

On June 19, DNUSD Superintendent Jeff Harris presented an LCAP that included a total allocation of $5,780,580 in LCFF dollars, with $1,300 left over.

The 2019-2020 LCAP also calls for hiring one part-time bilingual instructional assistant and increasing the hours of another bilingual instructional assistant from 5.5 hours to 6.5 hours – or a half-hour less than full time, according to Godla.

On Thursday, Ryan Kober, a facilitator with Building Healthy Communities, which helped coordinate a series of six public meetings on the LCAP in conjunction with True North, noted that the proposal for two additional counselors at the K8 level received overwhelming support from parents.

“I want to state that the use of counseling techs (at) elementary levels is not currently recognized by the California Association of School Counselors,” Kober said. “My recommendation would be to go to the existing K8 counselors and ask them which they would prefer — two full-time counselors or one full-time counselor and two counseling techs — because they would have the best perspective on the kinds of support they need.”

Godla said counseling technicians can offer behavioral instruction, including resiliency training, to most students at a school site, leaving counselors to focus on more intensive small-group and individual social and emotional interventions. Counseling technicians would also be able to help determine which school had the greatest need for more intensive interventions, he said.

However, Godla noted, a downside to having a counselor and two counseling technicians would be determining the responsibility of a counseling tech versus a counselor.

“Having eight counselors, you don’t have to decide what’s a Tier 1 and a Tier 2 and 3 activity,” Godla said.

Under the district’s Multi-tiered Systems of Support approach to counseling services, Tier 1 interventions target the most students, while Tier 2 and Tier 3 students target those with greater social and emotional needs.

Deciding where to place the additional counselor and the counseling technicians would involve looking at each school’s needs.

“Some of our schools might (have a) small population,” he said. “But they have a lot of Tier 3 students that have a lot of social and emotional support needs. We would probably put the techs at schools that don’t have as many Tier 3 (students), but we would want to have a little bit more discussion.”

Godla, who retired last week, said the district’s new superintendent of curriculum and instruction, Tom Kissinger, would be instrumental in making that decision. Godla said the district would also be monitoring the efficiency of the additional counselor and two counseling technicians at the K8 level.