After 14 years with the Burbank Unified School District, Donna
Feldman was facing unemployment lines when the school board
eliminated the entire guidance advisor program at the district’s
elementary schools last year due to a $3-million budget shortfall.
“After trying unsuccessfully for months to secure another position
with [the district], it became apparent that the money wasn’t there,
and that the budget situation was going to get worse before it got
better, so I struck out on my own,” Feldman said.
She was one of 11 guidance advisors to be let go.
In February, Feldman, 51, opened On the Right Track, a tutorial
and paraprofessional counseling service.
“I thought at first, ‘It’s just going to be tutoring,’ but it’s
evolving into a much wider process,” Feldman said. “I’m doing more
academic-related things, but at the same time I’m still able to offer
parent support in other areas.”
This week, the district sent preliminary notices to 260 teachers
and other workers that they too could be laid off. The deadline for
final notification is May 15.
Juan Avila had better luck than Feldman when he looked for another
job in the district. Although he is still employed at McKinley
Elementary School where he was a guidance advisor, Avila is an
intervention specialist working with students who need help in
reading comprehension, mathematics and other subjects.
“Due to the new testing at the high school level, they’re trying
to implement as many academic interventions before [students] leave
elementary school so that they can be strong learners by the time
they get to middle school,” Avila said. “That’s why [Principal Sue
Holliday] thought of having me here, so that we can, hopefully, help
as many students as soon as possible.”
Although his salary does not match his former one, Avila said he
is happy to be employed. And because he had to take a cut in pay, it
motivated him to start a new career. When he’s not in school, Avila
creates floral arrangements for parties and other events.
When she lost her part-time guidance advisor position at Roosevelt
and Providencia elementary schools, Marita Garrahan decided to
Today Garrahan, 65, enjoys reading, traveling and working in her
Although she likes being a woman of leisure, Garrahan said she
regrets that the guidance advisor program was disbanded.
“There is a tremendous need of supporting children whose parents
are ill or incarcerated, and at this time there are children whose
parents might be going to war,” Garrahan said. “We went through that
in 1991, and I remember how worried those children were.”
Rena Scharch, an 18-year employee with the district, said she saw
the writing on the wall and returned to school to earn her
high-school counseling credentials.
Scharch, 47, completed her studies about the same time she lost
her job as Disney Elementary School’s guidance advisor, but six weeks
later she was hired by San Marino High School.
“The sad thing about the whole situation wasn’t necessarily that
the guidance counselors lost their jobs; it’s really the children who
lost out,” Scharch said.