Why I Wrote Another Op-Ed Piece on State Superintendent of Schools Elsie Arntzen

Tomorrow morning (6/15/22) I’ll have an Opinion piece published in the Missoulian, and possibly statewide in Lee Newspapers. The piece is extremely critical of the Montana Superintendent of Public Schools, Elsie Arntzen.

Update: Here’s the link to the article: https://missoulian.com/opinion/columnists/john-sommers-flanagan-a-clear-and-present-danger/article_9018bcfa-7277-548c-a218-436b52cabb7e.html

I don’t like being publicly critical of anyone, so I thought I should clarify why I’m criticizing the Superintendent.

Recently, Superintendent Arntzen recommended eliminating school counselor “ratios” in Montana public schools. Montana state statute currently requires that schools employ one school counselor for every 400 students. If you know the work of school counselors, you know that facilitating the academic, career, and personal and social development for 400 students is no easy task. Nationally, the recommendation is for a 250 to 1 ratio.

In the midst of the worst youth mental health crisis ever, the Superintendent is recommending fewer requirements for school counselors in public schools.

As someone who has been involved in the training of school counselors in Montana since 1993, I can say without reservation that people who dedicate their lives to being school counselors are some of the best people in Montana. They’re smart, compassionate, dedicated to improving children’s lives, and support the academic success of all students. They’re also, along with school psychologists, the most informed and capable school mental health professionals in schools. School counselors are masters level professionals with extensive training in how to support children’s mental health.  

If you support school counselors, I hope you’ll go online, find my opinion piece and share it widely . . . especially if you live or work in Montana. I’ll post the link tomorrow. We need to push back against the Superintendent’s efforts to devalue children’s mental health and potentially reduce their access to school counselors.

Thanks for joining me in the effort to maintain school counselors in schools and to support the mental health and well-being of school counselors.

13 thoughts on “Why I Wrote Another Op-Ed Piece on State Superintendent of Schools Elsie Arntzen”

  1. John, thanks for speaking out– Arntzen’s plan is horrifying for anyone who works with or in our schools with children and teens. We need to bring some light and heat to this issue, with our Governor and our legislators to stop Arntzen from carrying through.

    1. Hi Jana,

      In my next blog, I’d like to share your thoughts on whom to contact. I can cite you as the source of the excellent ideas, or keep you anonymous. Let me know what you prefer. Thanks again!

  2. John, thanks for speaking out– Arntzen’s plan is horrifying for anyone who works with or in our schools with children and teens. We need to bring some light and heat to this issue, with our Governor and our legislators to stop Arntzen from carrying through.

    There are 2 Interim Committees have meetings this summer & fall, and would respond to public outcry on this, especially from districts of Committee members. Dan Salomon(R) is on Education, from Ronan, and has been good on mental health, Medicaid expansion; worth talking to him directly about how to bring pressure. Education met today, June 14 (nothing like this on their agenda), will meet again Sept. 12-13. Children, Families, Health & Human Services is meeting twice this month, again in August, another good pressure point. Danny Tennebaum from Missoula is on it. If someone responds asking what they can do, suggest they organize public comment/participation and get this issue on both Committees agenda. My plate is too full to organize, but I can help if someone takes the lead.

    Jana

  3. JSF,

    I case no one has told you this today… you are one of the most stellar people I know.

    Thank you for being such a dedicated advocate for school counselors.

    This is just one of the many things for which we love you! ❤❤

    Dr. Laura

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device
    Get Outlook for Androidhttps://aka.ms/AAb9ysg

  4. JSF-This is an objective criticism of the superintendent’s recommendation, and graciously respectful. Her proposal brings to mind a quote years ago in response to reduction in education funding: “You think education is expensive? Try ignorance.” Thanks for paying attention and speaking out.

  5. Bravo John. And Thank you so much. I look forward to your reading your piece and forwarding it to my friends and colleagues across the country many of whom are teachers and counselors and parents of school age children.

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