Arlington parents outraged by officials' decision to eliminate district's only elementary school counselor

ARLINGTON — Robin Price's youngest son used to be angry before he met Mark Dolan.

But after a series of weekly appointments with the then-elementary school counselor, Price's son began to make progress.

"Without Mr. Dolan, I would have made a lot of mistakes with him," Price told the Arlington School Board on Monday, July 12. "My son needs him at Eagle Creek next year."

Price was one of about 10 parents and community members criticizing school officials' decision to eliminate the position belonging to Dolan — the district's only elementary school counselor — in wake of budget cuts.

Dolan served all five of the district's elementary schools during the 2009-10 school year, and spent one day a week at each school.

Dolan was notified on June 16 that he would no longer serve as an elementary school counselor. Instead, he will be relocated to Arlington High School and work in credit retrieval.

Dolan was told of the change shortly after he finished telling students at Trafton School that he would be their familiar face at Eagle Creek Elementary School next year, said former Trafton Parent Teacher Club President Kelly Roundy.

On June 14, the School Board unanimously approved closing Trafton, Washington state's longest continuously run school. Many of the students who went Trafton will be attending Eagle Creek, but some parents have threatened to take their children out of the Arlington School District in wake of the Trafton closure.

"(His position) is such an important part of the everyday," Roundy told the Board. "Our kids need to see him next year wherever they are."

Parents at Monday's meeting said they were disappointed that the district would get rid of the much-needed position.

"There are a lot of things that kids don't feel comfortable talking to their parents about," said parent Art Ringler. "It's just another point of contact for kids. I think that is a need, especially with the influx of kids from Trafton into Eagle Creek."

Dolan also spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. He said that this issue was not about him, but rather it was about the district not having counseling service available to students.

Dolan equated the district's decision to do away with an elementary school counselor with the high school having varsity, junior varsity and "C" teams in sports.

"This is a K-12 program, not just a middle school and high school program," he said to the Board. "Don't eliminate the elementary school service all together, keep it going. Get somebody to do this."

Dolan has worked in some capacity for the Arlington School District for the past 29 years.

On Monday, Superintendent Kris McDuffy also announced that the district had eliminated its public information coordinator position due to budget reductions.

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