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Arlington schools retain elementary counselor

ARLINGTON — Elementary school students will have a counselor next year after all.

Arlington School District Superintendent Kris McDuffy announced Thursday, July 15, that longtime counselor Mark Dolan would be retained as the district’s only counselor for kindergarten through fifth-grade students through the 2010-11 school year.

Dolan was notified in June that his position was being cut due to budget reductions. He had been reclassified to work next school year at Arlington High School in credit retrieval.

State law requires districts to let certificated staff members know by May 15 if their position would be eliminated or reduced the following school year.

Administration let Dolan know on June 16 that he would no longer serve as the district’s sole elementary school counselor.

“(Because of state requirements), it is not uncommon for districts to estimate a bit high, with the hope of later being able to recall staff as budget development and program decisions progress,” McDuffy said Thursday, July 15. “Reinstatement of the elementary counselor position was our highest priority when considering where we could build back.”

McDuffy added that changes in the district’s Online Learning Program have allowed administrators to retain Dolan’s position.

Word of the change came three days after a group of 10 parents and community members criticized school officials’ decision to take away Dolan’s position.

During the July 12 School Board meeting, parent Robin Price spoke about her son, who had been angry before he met Dolan.

But after a series of weekly appointments with the 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.”

Last year, 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.

Initially, 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.”

While Dolan might be coming back as a counselor next year, the district’s public information coordinator will not.

McDuffy announced July 12 that position had also been eliminated due to budget cuts.

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