NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - After a group of teachers and educators asked the School Board to add more guidance counselors to the budget for the next school year, members voted Tuesday night to support the superintendent's recommendation.
The 6-1 vote includes asking city council to help fund adding two additional counselors to the budget. The motion to add six counselors failed.
The superintendent recommended that the School Board adopt the FY 2020 Proposed Operating Budget in the amount of $315,406,216; the 2019-2020 Worker's Compensation Fund budget of $2,323,500; the textbook fund budget of $1,959,962 and the 2019-2020 Child Nutrition Fund budget of $19,622,000.
"You really have to make it easier for teachers," said Mary Vause, a preschool teacher at Marshall Early Learning Center. "Guidance counselors in the school are a big part of that."
Initially, Superintendent Dr. George Parker proposed adding six guidance counselors, based on Gov. Northam's budget proposal. During the General Assembly session, lawmakers didn't fund all of Northam's proposals and so the money that was earmarked for the counselors in Newport News isn't there.
Still, teachers from the Newport News Education Association are hoping School Board members will find a way to fund the positions. "Guidance counselors are really important, especially for students who are troubled and potentially disruptive in the classroom," said Vause.
The teachers note how about 60 percent of students in the city rely on free or reduced lunches, demonstrating how poverty is an issue. "Students who are living in poverty are more likely to have experienced trauma. That makes it even more important to have guidance counselors in the school system to help those students," said Vause.
Following a meeting last week, a spokesperson for the school division says Dr. Parker has been trying to find a solution.
School Board member Shelly Simonds tells News 3 she recognizes the need for more counselors, but doesn't want the issue to turn into a confrontation with city council members as they will ultimately vote to approve the budget.