By JAQUELINE HUERTA
In just the span of six months, University High School has lost two full time counselors, Mr. Ryan Itchon and Mrs. Esther Rogers, who both resigned to work at other schools within the Irvine Unified School District.
Both of these losses have come as shocking bombshells to the student body– especially seniors– who are highly reliant on their counselor’s commitment to staying at UHS for sufficient time to become familiar with counseling procedures specific to UHS, and to get to know them on a deeper level.
Dr. Kevin Astor (Administration) ran through the limited options the administration had to resolve the solution: “We could have had the other counselors take on even more kids. I don’t think that’s a very good option. Or we could hire the most qualified person that we could find, which is what we did. I think that’s clearly the best solution to deal with this.”
Upon being informed of the student sentiment toward the changes, Astor said, “[The counselors] have a whole reflection sheet for the students to fill out, they spend an amazing amount of time with the student before they even write the letter, so I believe that they will still be able to fulfill their requirements as far as the universities are concerned.”
Although administration has attempted to reassure students that all their needs will be well taken care of by the counseling department, anxiety continues to reverberate throughout the student body. Students raise important concerns regarding the ways in which the counseling changes have affected them thus far.
Senior Esther Hendrix, who was expecting to meet with Itchon, went to the counseling office for assistance with dropping her pre-calculus class and taking a journalism class in its place. She was surprised to find Rogers in his place. Although Hendrix was able to drop the class, Rogers was unable to process the request to place her in journalism– a schedule change she had seen done for her peers dozens of times.
Concerning this experience with Rogers, Hendrix said, “I think she was fairly helpful, but I don’t think she helped me in the way that I wanted.” She continues, “If [Rogers] had worked here longer, she would’ve been more familiar with the rules and could’ve maybe used that to accommodate me better…”
From missing core classes, to duplicate classes, and unwanted classes, Hendrix’s experience illustrates just one of the several scheduling conflicts students have experienced due to the adjustment period following the counseling change from Itchon to Rogers.
Additionally, one of the most significant problems created after both counselor’s departures is the strong sense of uncertainty throughout seniors expecting letters of recommendation from Itchon and later Rogers.
Senior Olivia Holmes stated, “I was hoping Mr. Itchon would write my letter of recommendation because he knew me much better than a new counselor who is coming in my senior year ever would have.”
The consensus is the same amongst seniors previously under Itchon: they were expecting he would write their letter of recommendation but were quickly disappointed to find he had left during arguably the most crucial role of a counselor in students’ high school careers.
Holmes was ultimately able to receive her letter of recommendation from Ms. Hanna Addessi (Counseling) and believes, “Ms. Addesi actually did a really great job by using the appointment as a way to get to know me better and I feel like she will write me a very strong letter of recommendation.”
However Senior Evan Juan, a student in a very similar position to Holmes, points out a severe flaw with relying on the single letter of recommendation meeting: “Due to Mrs. Rogers’s lack of experience with her students, her letter was heavily influenced by the responses that the students wrote for her in the counselor packet.”
Juan elaborated, “As such, her letter may stay true to the student’s own perception of themselves, but it would not be an accurate representation of a student’s character. I believe that the letter she wrote would not be as well fleshed out as one written by Mr. Itchon.”
Although ultimately every senior will receive a letter of recommendation by their deadline as promised by administration, these student sentiments prompt serious consideration regarding the quality of the letters and the counseling department itself. Is a counselor’s role undermined by such frequent turnovers?
“As the brother of another student who was affected by the shuffling of counselors in 2014, it was greatly disappointing that another counselor turnover occurred not long after the initial shuffle,” Juan provided another instance in which this same uncertainty rang through UHS.
He continued, “Although I do understand and recognize that the staff have their own right to alter their careers, the constant change in counseling staff has had a major impact on the students– not only in regards to letters of recommendation, but counseling advice as well.”
Although opinions on this situation vary between staff and students, one thing is certain: A majority of students believe that University High School’s administration must find a better solution to address this recurring problem if they want to establish trust in the counseling department.