Trustees to consider greater flexibility in hiring school counselors

Idaho K-12 school trustees plan to vote on adopting a more flexible approach to hiring school counselors.

It’s one of nine resolutions on tap for the Idaho School Board Association’s upcoming annual convention at the Boise Centre.

This year’s three-day conference kicks off Nov. 17 and will feature training and networking opportunities for K-12 trustees in districts and charters across Idaho. The conference is set for the Boise Centre, but could go remote, according to an Oct. 6 newsletter ISBA sent its members. COVID-19 forced last year’s conference goers to participate remotely.

The annual conference ends with an open caucus of trustees voting to either accept or reject a series of resolutions aimed at shaping the ISBA’s priorities ahead of each legislative session. ISBA’s executive team will adopt approved resolutions and lobby for them to lawmakers.

This year’s resolutions include:

Flexibility for hiring school counselors. Trustees in the Bonneville School District want the Legislature to amend an existing statute to let districts hire both licensed professional counselors and licensed clinical professional counselors as school counselors.

The change would align the requirements for these professionals “more closely with the requirements for licensed social workers, whom school districts are currently permitted to hire as school counselors,” the resolution reads.

The goal: infuse “more flexibility in addressing the mental, social, and emotional needs of students” — a focal point for schools across Idaho as they grapple with the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on kids.

“More than ever, Idaho students need social and emotional support from trained and licensed mental health professionals,” the resolution states.

ISBA’s executive board supports the resolution.

Support for Idaho’s core learning standards. Boise trustees floated a resolution for continued legislative support of Idaho’s Core Standards, which are up for review next year.

The current standards represent “robust performance standards” and support “content written in an unbiased way that encourages problem-solving and critical thinking,” the resolution states.

The Legislature will have its say on Core Standards in math, science and English language arts during the upcoming 2022 session.

Blowback over the standards has erupted in recent years. In 2019, educators in various parts of the state asked the State Board of Education to leave the standards alone, after the Idaho Freedom Foundation circulated a repeal petition. A multitude of signatures left the State Board legally obligated to hold the hearings.

Critics say state standards reflect nationwide standards and sap state and local control from public education. Boise trustees say repealing or delaying in the adoption of Idaho’s content standards would “significantly” impact districts and charter schools financially.

ISBA’s executive board supports the resolution.

Guiding principals for K-12 funding

Another resolution deals with the way Idaho funds its K-12 schools — another hot-button topic in recent years.

The resolution, also drafted by Boise trustees, seeks to infuse a series of “guiding principles” into a years-long attempt to change the state’s school funding formula.

These principles range from a funding formula that accurately predicts budgets in coming years to safeguarding against “sharp” drops in state funding from year to year.

For three years, a public school funding formula legislative interim committee has worked to develop a proposal for a new funding formula. The proposed model the group floated was not approved, but the 2019 Legislature did approve House Bill 293, which establishes definitions to be used in a student-based funding formula.

Yet a new model has not been addressed since, leaving the issue so far unresolved and possibly teeing things back up for the upcoming session.

The resolution’s guiding principles “represent a philosophical direction for funding public schools and reflect some of the concerns identified with the proposed model that was released in 2019,” the resolution states.

ISBA’s executive board supports the resolution.

Other resolutions for this year’s conference include:

Other ISBA news. ISBA recently announced the hiring of two familiar faces in state education circles.

The State Department of Education’s Director of Certification and Professional Standards Lisa Colón Durham will join ISBA as its new professional development director on Oct. 25. Catherine Bates, Boise State University’s assistant director for the institute for inclusive and transformative scholarship, will take over as the association’s superintendent’s search manager on Oct. 18.

Colón Durham will oversee professional development efforts in her new role, ISBA announced, including training topics creation, scheduling district trainings and building online learning modules.

Bates will manage ISBA’s efforts to help districts hire new superintendents, create and execute strategic communications and assist with other member services.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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