As CPS prepares to close a record number of schools, the fate of students and communities is in question.
'Well-run' school employs 26 counselor aids
Schurz High School in Irving Park is the aide champion of the city. This year it employed 26 "guidance counselor aides," one for every 96 students.
Prosser Career Academy and Steinmetz High School, both in Belmont Cragin, came in second with nine aides each. At Prosser, that amounts to one aide for every 149 students; at Steinmetz, one for every 271. "They're necessary," argues Principal Sharon Bender. "It helps the school run smoothly, efficiently, effectively."
Indeed, the people who fill the counselor aide positions perform a wide variety of duties. They serve in the attendance and discipline offices, process truants and monitor the halls. Only two are permanently stationed in the guidance office, where 10 certified counselors serve 2,500 students.
Anna Dreschler, an 11-year Schurz veteran, spends most of her time in the school's three-room computer lab. She fine tunes student access schedules, monitors students when they are online—keeping them out of chat rooms, for instance—advises teachers on classroom presentations, answers students' questions and orders supplies and parts.
This year, Schurz spent some $746,000—a third of its $2.3 million in discretionary funds—on counselor aide positions.
Chicago Teachers Union delegate Lois Jones agrees with Bender that Schurz is "pretty calm and well disciplined and well run." Still, she remains uncertain about exactly how many counselor aides the school should have. "Do we need as many as we have? I'm not sure about that."
Besides guidance counselor aides, the school used discretionary money to hire three assistant principals (which brought the total to six), five teachers and three security aides.
Jones argues that the school doesn't need three extra assistant principals. "We get more bang for our buck on the guidance counselor aides. With APs, I'm getting someone to hand lesson plans to," she says.
This year, Schurz was put on probation, which means it has to follow CPS guidelines for spending on instructional improvement. In addition, its area instructional officer must approve its budget.
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