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What they’re doing now

Molly Shore

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.