April 2/13: Education Policy Development Committee: The Record Off The Record: Student Counselling, Not Therapy

The Record Off The Record is my own personal record of and commentary on public meetings in School District 61 (Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal and a portion of Saanich and Highlands ).  “Official” approved minutes of Board  and Standing Committee meetings are posted on the SD61 website under the “Board of Education” menu, generally one month after the meeting. The meeting schedule is posted on the District Calendar. Trustees  are referred to by last name only for brevity; “the Board of Education of SD No. 61 (Greater Victoria) is referred to as “the Board [etc]”. No audio recordings are made of Standing Committee meetings, only of Board meetings. (No record of how the audio recording decision was made, or any debate on proposed uses of and storage of the record appears to exist.) Unless attributed, comments are my own.

No In Camera meeting before this public meeting. Education Policy meetings are generally held at schools in SD61 but although the agenda specifies  “Cedar Hill Middle School” as  venue, this meeting was held at the Tolmie Building.

Absent: Alpha (regrets), Loring-Kuhanga
Recognition of Songhees and Esquimalt Nations’ traditional territories.

Education Policy Development Committee: Chair Horsman (in Alpha’s absence)

1. Approval of Agenda: Approved.
2. Approval of Minutes: Combined Education Policy Development Committee and Operations Planning and Policy Committee Meeting Minutes March 4, 2013
3. Business Arising Out of the Minutes : None.
4. Public Request to the Committee: None.
5. Correspondence Referred to the Committee: None.
6. Motions Referred to the Committee [Surprise! A change in the agenda. On the February 4 agenda, 6 was “General Announcements”, which is 7 today. “Motions Referred to the Committee” was 8. Try and keep up.] : None
7. General Announcements: None.

8. New Business:

A. Counselling Services: (Info) Presentation by  Debra Mackie, District Principal of Special Education; Deborah Courville, Associate Superintendent; Nella Nelson, Aboriginal Nations Education; Dick Brown, District Counsellor (Regulation 2127.0630: District Counsellors, last reviewed 1979, which accounts for the quaint language in Article 5: “The above regulations are made in recognition of the fact that the principal is in charge of his school…).

Some relevant SD61 links: District Aboriginal Counsellor Policy,  District Aboriginal Counsellor Regulation (1999);  Regulation Elementary School Counsellors K-7 (1994) [SD61 moved to a middle school model with the last school reconfigured from K-7 in 2007. SD61 has no K-7 schools];  Director of Student Support Services Policy (1991);  Policy on Student Suspensions  (1993).

Special Education Services  in SD61 includes this description of Counselling Services:  “School counsellors provide a continuum of preventative, developmental, remedial, and intervention services and programs and facilitate referral to community resources. The school counsellor’s role includes counselling [though the presentation stressed “not therapy”; for that, a student is referred to an outside agency] , school-based consultation, co-ordination and education. School counselling functions include individual, group and class work to provide both an intervention and a prevention service. The focus of school counselling is enhancing the students’ development, assisting with the development of an enabling school culture and empowering students toward positive change. The counsellor:

  • Promotes personal and social development appropriate to developmental stages
  • Counsels students, their families and the community to foster growth in the students’ self esteem, individual responsibility, and in skills such as decision making and social skills
  • Ameliorates factors which may precipitate problems for students
  • Enhances students’ educational achievement through goal setting, assisting with the development of IEP’s and activities such as promotion of effective work and study habits
  • Provides appropriate interventions to assist students with school related problems and issues
  • Facilitates the goals of career education by assisting students and their families to explore and clarify the student’s career options, through developmental activities that stress decision-making, personal planning and career awareness.”

Some relevant Provincial level links: BC School Counsellors Association; Ministry of Education resources for counsellors and others;  When Words are Not Enough: Threat Assessment for School Counsellors; September 8, 2011 Tyee article “At School, More Stressed Kids, Fewer Counsellors”; Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Issue #10 July 14, 2010,Patrice A. Keats and Daniel Laitsch, Simon Fraser University (excerpt below):

  • .Keats and Laitsch in CJEAP: Contemplating Regulation of Counsellors in Canadian Schools: Current issues and Concerns [specific focus on BC schools]: “Thus, because there are no legislated qualifications for counsellors in general or school counsellors specifically, enforcement of these standards is voluntary. This is a particular concern around the master’s degree in a related discipline where there may not have been any supervised counselling practicum….Since BC school counsellors are not required to be a member of any counselling organization or association, the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) stands as the only regulating body in which teacher counsellors are members.”  [BCCT is now the Teacher Regulation Branch.]

Debra Mackie, District Principal, Special Education  and Principal, Victor School (a segregated school for students with special needs):

  • SD61 has 9 counsellors (7.6 FTE / full time equivalent; some are part time); school counsellors are “particularly connected” with elementary schools.
  • All SD61 school counsellors have Master’s degrees [at time of posting, no information as to which degrees are held; a “related discipline” degree is allowed, not necessarily a degree in Counselling Psychology. The Ministry of Education website does not clarify which “related disciplines” qualify].
  • In elementary schools counsellors are itinerant. At a school of 300 students or fewer, the assignment is one day a week (.2 FTE) They work with entire classes and are part of School Based Teams [From SD39 Vancouver School District Special Education Glossary: “A School Based Team is an ongoing team of school based personnel which has a form role to play as a problem solving unit in assisting classroom teachers to develop and implement instructional or management strategies and to coordinate support resources for students with special need within the school” (Ministry of Education – July 06). The School Based Team can be different, depending on staff and school needs. Usually an administrator, a counsellor, or specialist teachers make up part of the team which can include many different personnel].
  • [Campus View School Based Team, as an example: The Learning Assistance teacher coordinates the school-based team consisting of the principal, the vice- principal, the school counselor, the Learning Assistance teacher, a Student Assistant representative, outside support staff (when students in their case load are discussed) and classroom teachers (when students in their classes are discussed). The School Based Team meets twice monthly to brainstorm ideas and formulate action plans to deal with emotional behavior, academic and social concerns. Progress of special needs students is monitored throughout the year. A student can be referred for discussion by any member of the staff.]
  • School counsellors work to address social, emotional and behaviour needs, coordinate community services [among them, community resources which must be in place for a student to receive funding and support attached to a designation of “intensive behaviour intervention” – there are 29 forms on the district internal web page in regard to Intensive Behaviour Intervention – or “students with a severe mental illness”]
  • Work in elementary and middle school classrooms delivering programs on bullying and social development
  • In secondary schools (9-12), provide career counselling and support transitions to and from secondary school, as well as interventions related to addictions, grief, loss, depression, self-harm.
  • Counsellor time is set at a ratio per student, determined using estimated student enrolment with additional information from the school principal in regard to the needs of the school. Student population 300 or less = .2 FTE = 1 day, with the District allocation of time rising with increments in student population.
  • Some schools see a need to use some of their school budget money to top up counsellor time.

Some schools have the services of a Youth and Family Counsellor (generally graduates of a four year degree program in Youth and Child Care), paid from Community Link funding (which can also be used to buy Education Assistant time, or additional teacher time).

Deborah Courville (former school counsellor), Associate Superintendent:

Dick Brown, District Counsellor:

  • Among responsibilities is conduct suspension hearings, which are significantly down, likely due to early intervention.

Nella Nelson, Coordinator, Aboriginal Nations Education Department:

  • Twelve schools K-12 have service from Aboriginal Counsellors; four of the six have Master’s degrees or are registered in a Master’s program
  • Aboriginal school counsellors are paid from Community Link funding and targeted Aboriginal Education funding One day per week equivalent is reserved for emergent referrals.
  • The Friendship Centre  provides a 1.0 FTE (full time equivalent) Education Liaison position for time in schools with provision of  links to Friendship Centre Services,  links to Surrounded By Cedar services, and Metis Community Services.

Orcherton:  What about a student who has a serious issue if the counsellor is not there? There is a team on site, correct?
Horsman: Is the counsellor the first responder?

Good questions. The District provides a School Emergency and Critical Incident Response guide available for schools, apparently, from the searchable url, through Human Resources, though no link is on the minimal SD61 Human Resources Department page. School District 61 has formed a Crisis Intervention Team made up of two principals, and a number of school counsellors.

  • Debra Mackie: Behaviour plans are in place for students who  are identified as “low incidence”, including Level 3 “serious mental illness” and “intensive behaviour support”. The School Based Team core members are the principal, vice principal and the counsellor.

[Safety plans deal with, among other things,  who will respond on school grounds (teacher? principal? vice principal? education assistant? ), a list of behaviours to watch for in terms of escalation. and possible responses including “reactive plan”, “interim strategies”, protocol for restraint if a last resort, procedures for exiting other students from the vicinity, what to do if bitten, etc. Obviously, at a school, anyone who can respond and who is part of the safety / behaviour plan is teaching, possibly providing support to other students (as Ministry-funded Education Assistant  support for students with intensive behaviour is not full time) or involved in administrative duties and needs to be called away to deal with the emergency.]

B. Revision to Regulation 5140.1 Child Abuse and Regulation 5140.2 Child Abuse and School District Employees: (Info: attached to agenda at end) Janine Roy, District principal of Learning Initiatives

The District Leadership Team reviews Regulations [not Policy, though DLT does review Policy through an “informal agreement” and presents revisions to the Board for approval, a process that has been going on for some time. this review was  to include only “housekeeping” changes and simple non-substantive updates to Policy. On occasion one might think the revisions are more than “housekeeping”. The BC School Trustees Association recognizes Policy development and review as a key part of Trustees’ duties: “Trustees also assess periodically their district’€™s compliance with the policies and goals they put in place, thus monitoring district performance.” Currently an Ad Hoc Committee is reviewing Bylaw 9360, General Meeting of the Board,and will make recommendations to the Board. The motion to establish this Committee specifically excluded Trustees].

BC Handbook for Action on Child Abuse and Neglect

BC Handbook for Action on Child Abuse and Neglect

C. Regulation 6145.02 Supervision Requirements for Secondary School and Middle School Extra-curricular Athletics: (Info; attached at end of agenda) Sherri Bell, Deputy Superintendent:

  • Met with CUPE 947. The Regulation as previously written excluded CUPE and Allied Specialists from being considered a “responsible employee” for overnight volunteer trip supervision with students; only teachers were mentioned.  As specified in the Regulation, the school principal has the ultimate responsibility for the situation.

Other applicable Policies:  Field Trips , Attachments for Field Trip Regulation , Overnight Accommodation Policy , Overnight Accommodation Regulation .

“New Business” was 8 this time, and last time 9 was “Superintendent’s Report “. Not this time. This time 9 is “Adjournment”.

9. Adjournment:   8:15

Next meetings:
Monday April 8 2013:Operations Planning and Policy, Board Room 7:30
Wednesday April 10 7 pm Special Budget Meeting SJ Willis
Monday April 15 7 pm Board Meeting: Board Room

About Diane McNally