Guidance committee reviews services

Written by Katherine Zu

The Guidance Advisory Committee (GAC) will convene this September to mid-February, with the purpose of advising the community on how to strengthen guidance and counseling services. The recommendations made will be presented to the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Board of Education as well as the Site Council, the Instructional Council and the Gunn Student Executive Council (SEC).

Decisions that are made through the GAC recommendations could start to affect Gunn as early as the 2013-14 school year. “Next year there are probably going to be some small changes,” Assistant Principal of Guidance Tom Jacoubowsky said. Jacoubowsky is one of the school administrators on the committee.

In the June report to the PAUSD Board of Education, the Guidance Review Workgroup proposed the formation of the Guidance Review Workgroup II (GRWII).  The Board of Education supported the proposition, and the GRWII was formalized. According to Director of Secondary Education Dr. Michael Milliken, who led the committee member selection process, the GRWII was changed to the GAC because the new name is more reflective of the committee’s purpose.

According to the Review of Findings from Guidance Review Report, the GAC will review current guidance services, research the best practices to counsel students, investigate ways to balance socio-emotional support with academic and college advising and create a communication system to share the role of guidance and guidance services. Ultimately, the GAC will look at a variety of guidance delivery models, with consideration of the potential advantages and disadvantages of incorporating them into the Gunn system.

After each meeting, the GAC will update the school community on the committee’s progress. “We want the whole process to be transparent,” Jacoubowsky said. Aside from the updates, resource materials and meeting minutes will be available on the Guidance Department website and there will be two open forums for the public to voice their opinions in person.

The committee consists of 17 members. Independent facilitator Ken Yale was hired by PAUSD and is responsible for ensuring that the committee makes the best possible recommendation. Candidates were chosen through an application process.“We sought out families with a range of experiences at Gunn, including positive and negative experiences, so that breadth of experience could inform the committee’s discussions,” Milliken said.  “In addition to these considerations, we made efforts to select a representative committee along demographic lines.”

The GAC currently has two subcommittees, one responsible for communicating with the school community and the other responsible for research. According to Yale, committee members volunteer to be on the subcommittees, which hold additional meetings. “We use subcommittees to help organize the work of the GAC because we are conducting a rigorous process of inquiry and investigation into how to best support Gunn students, and we have limited time when the whole committee can meet together,” Yale said. “Subcommittees are designed to do the nuts and bolts organizing necessary to support the work of the GAC, not to make major decisions.”

Although the GAC has only held two meetings so far, there is a general consensus among committee members for open-mindedness and willingness to cooperate, according to Yale and Jacoubowsky. “Everybody on the GAC has the same goal: to support the academic, social-emotional, and post-secondary needs of Gunn students as effectively as possible,” Yale said. “The members of GAC had different ideas about how to do this when the committee was first formed. My hope is that through a collaborative process of research and inquiry, we’ll all reach agreement within several months on a recommendation for how to best achieve this goal.”

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