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Health clinic shows poor priorities at school district

After reading the article ('Will high school get a bus line?' April 4, 2008 News-Times) last week, we are compelled to write. We think the Forest Grove School District is making decisions that do not represent the majority of the community.

The proposed health center to be built next to the Forest Grove High School tennis courts is not needed.

The goal at FGHS to encourage students to go to college and promote applying for scholarships is really only a wish, not an actual goal.

Over the last several months, you have proven this.

The FGHS counseling office is completely understaffed. There are four counselors, one for each grade, serving nearly 2,000 students.

There are eight parent volunteers, helping FGHS seniors apply for scholarships. That position alone requires one to two full-time additional staff, plus the parent volunteers.

Students are lined up in the counseling office needing assistance every day. The counselors are completely overworked and understaffed.

It is discouraging to see the district not providing the much needed staffing and support for people dedicated to helping students on a very practical level. You are expecting four counselors to work with nearly 2,000 students. That's insane and impossible.

Look at the numbers. There are over 1,900 FGHS students. If a counselor met 15 minutes with a student from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., he or she could serve 28 students per day.

That is counting on no interruptions, no lunch, no break, no paperwork, no phones... just meeting with students nonstop.

It means rushing through the students' appointments, rather than taking the time they need. It creates a discouraging atmosphere where the counselors can never get on top of their workloads and yet more is required of them daily by the FGSD.

For the past two years, eight to 12 parents have been spending a combined total of 40-80 volunteer hours a week promoting scholarships and college to seniors. This school year, we personally met with over 200 seniors weekly through the year, helping them reach their goals by applying for scholarships so they can attend college (vocational, military, two- and four-year colleges). We worked with a wide variety of students, 1.0 GPA to 4.0+ GPA.

Even with eight parents, we were often overwhelmed by the workload and hours needed to do an excellent job with the students.

One thing is crystal clear this year. The district is not providing the needed funding and support to help FGHS students truly reach their college goals.

In other words, the district chats it up, but does not provide the support or funding needed in the counseling office, where assisting students is the priority day after day.

Why is the district funding everything but education? The district promotes football field turf, which is great for football, soccer, etc. The district promotes a health clinic, a 1,600 square-foot building next to the tennis courts. These are the same tennis courts that the district refuses to cover so tennis could be a year-round sport, and players could compete at a higher level with the other schools.

The tennis team is growing rapidly each year. In fact, they cannot even get a portable toilet near the courts for the tennis team and the schools that drive to compete at FGHS.

But no. We read in the News-Times how the district is not only moving at break-neck speed to build the health clinic, but also is asking TriMet to provide transportation to FGHS so other students can use the clinic.

What in the world is this?! Now we are providing health clinic services not needed by the majority of FGHS students and TriMet rides for other students to use the clinic, too.

Do you realize how much policing that will require? You are providing free rides to anyone to get to FGHS easily. That includes people bringing even more drugs, etc. onto FGHS grounds.

What are you thinking? Have you actually been to FGHS lately?

Better yet, when was the last time you talked with parents about what they want for the district? Does it matter anymore to you?

Bottom line, we do not think you have thought this through. When we read the News-Times article and see that the thought process does not make logical sense, something is terribly wrong.

Who are you representing? Are you representing what the community wants? No.

We think the school board and district are promoting their own agenda rather than representing the community we live in. It seems things are presented, community input is encouraged, but the actual decision has already been made. The community is asked more as a courtesy, not as any valid input.

We have written the district and school board before on another issue. There is only silence. No response.

Where's the personal touch? Have you forgotten that you are not an entity unto yourselves, but serving and representing the community and what is best for the majority of students? We are FGHS alumni and have lived in the community for over 50 years.

Please rethink the direction of the Forest Grove School District and Forest Grove High School.

Phil and Kay Miller, of Forest Grove, wrote this open letter to the school board and district Superintendent Jack Musser.