District looking to hire exit exam counselors 

REDWOOD CITY — A $560,000 state grant could help the Sequoia High School District hire counselors to help students in danger of failing the California High School Exit Exam.

AB 1802, approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this fall, sets aside billions of dollars for school programs, including a $200 million pot of money for counseling grants to California high schools.

Sequoia officials are asking the school board tonight to approve new counselors at the district’s five high schools that would work specifically with students who repeatedly fail the exit exam, which is a requirement for graduation. District staff members are assessing existing counseling services to determine what is working — and what is needed — and do not yet know how many new positions will need to be created, according to Deputy Superintendent Francisca Miranda.

While school officials are planning for future years, the board intends to approve some immediate help, including boosting part-time counselors to full-time and asking full-time counselors to work overtime, according to trustee Gordon Lewin.

"We don’t want to lose a class of kids [to this year’s exit exam]," Lewin said.

Graduating seniors in 2006 were the first to be required to pass the exit exam before earning their diplomas. In San Mateo County, 102 seniors in that class have not passed the exit exam, more than 70 of whom were in the Sequoia High School District, according to data from the California Department of Education.

The goal of AB 1802 is to target students before they leave high school, according to Assemblymember Gene Mullin, D-South SanFrancisco, who co-sponsored the bill.

"If we don’t get them to pass the exit exam by the time they leave high school, it’s hard to get them into a position where they will pass it later on," Mullin said.

The Sequoia High School District board of trustees meets tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the district office, 480 James Ave., Redwood City.

School funding from AB 1802

AB 1802, in addition to $200 million for counselors dedicated to the exit exam, also includes:

>> $908 million to reimburse school districts and county offices of education for outstanding, prior-year education mandate claims.

>> $533.5 million in grants for instructional materials, classroom and lab supplies, school and classroom library materials, deferred maintenances.

>> $500 million in grants to districts for purchase of arts, music and physical education supplies and equipment.

>> An additional $100 per student for remedial instruction to 12th graders who have not yet passed the exit exam (CAHSEE).

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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