I am writing this letter in response to “Escape From DCPS” by Tom Stabile (3/28). The article gave a slanted and unsubstantiated account of me and the counseling program at Woodson Senior High School. In the article, Iyabo Akinadewo, a Woodson senior, states that I, her counselor, failed to provide her the assistance she needed with her post-secondary school plans. I take exception to this, and in the following paragraphs I wish to address some of her specific indictments.
First, she alleges that she earned a low score on the SAT her junior year because she had not been properly orientated by me and thus was completely “baffled” by the test. This charge has no validity. As her counselor, I recommended that she be a part of a “select” group of students to take the PSAT administered by our department. The PSAT is a practice test for the SAT, containing some of the same kinds of timed reading and math problems. The results of this test and their implications for the SAT were discussed later in an interpretation seminar.
The charge that she was not counseled is inaccurate. Group and individual sessions were conducted during the second semester of the last school year (1995-96) with all my juniors, at which time we explored their post-secondary goals and planned programs that would help them realize those goals. College-bound students were advised to take the SAT in May or June as a “trial run” and to begin writing colleges during the spring and summer to secure catalogs and applications. Early in the fall of the current school year, individual sessions were conducted to assess the seniors’ Carnegie credits and further explore their plans after high school. In addition to these outreach sessions, I maintain an “open door” policy, in which I encourage students to come into the office at any time to discuss their concerns.
Another allegation I refute is the claim that I lost college documents belonging to Iyabo. I totally dispute this claim, and it is my position that she never brought those documents to my office. To ensure the security of students’ documents, I have developed a file to house all pertinent information for college-bound students. Each student has access to his/her file at all times. They are advised to place all transcript requests in their files at the beginning of each week to be processed on Fridays, the day devoted solely to the preparation of senior college forms. If Iyabo had followed these instructions, and her documents had been placed in her file, they would have been retrieved, processed, and mailed along with those of other students.
One of the most libelous and irresponsible statements I wish to challenge is the accusation that counselors at Woodson do not have the expertise with which to assist students in the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While the responsibility for completing the financial aid form rests with the student and his/her parents, we have always assisted them with the form. Through the years, and this year is no exception, we have sponsored financial aid workshops for parents and students with presenters from colleges, the EOC office, financial institutions, etc. Two workshops were held this school year, (Nov. 7, 1996, and Feb. 6, 1997), with Wendy Edge, the EOC counselor assigned to us on Thursdays, as the presenter. Although we augment our program with outside resources, every counselor in our department is not only capable of but willing to provide individual assistance upon request. As a time-conserving measure, the Office of Education recently introduced a computer program to electronically file the FAFSA. Since this technology is not available at Woodson, every Thursday Edge brings her laptop to process the students’ FAFSAs and electronically files them later from her office. Hence the article’s reference to the “Thursday expert.”
In addition to the above-mentioned services, Edge also helps students explore fee-waiver options for admissions tests and college applicationsanother service that Iyabo claimed that she was not aware of until very late in the school year. On Oct. 17, 1996, Edge conducted an EOC orientation workshop in the school library. This workshop was well publicized utilizing the school’s public address system and placing fliers throughout the building.
The last point in the article attributed to the student that I wish to refute is my lack of accessibility. I can usually be located in my office unless I am involved in a classroom session or in a conference. The week in January referenced in the article was the exception, as there was no heat and I had to be relocated for several days. However, a notice was posted on the office door each day notifying students of my location. In order to expedite my return to the office I personally purchased a portable electrical heater. Therefore, her contention that I was not available, thereby necessitating the use of Federal Express to meet her deadline, is not accurate. According to my records, I received her NYU forms and a request for a letter of recommendation on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 1997. These documents were completed and available for pickup on Friday, Jan. 10.
I now wish to turn my attention to some of the innuendoes and unsubstantiated statements in the article I attribute to Stabile. I take exception to his description of a “collapsed counseling program” at Woodson High School. Our graduates are attending some of the best colleges in the nation, many of them on full scholarships, as evidenced by the enrollment of two of our graduates at George Washington University on $100,000 scholarships. Furthermore, for the last 10 or more years, our graduates have earned from $850,000 to $2 million in college scholarships, and five of those years were under my leadership as scholarship chairperson. Our current seniors are receiving daily acceptance letters from some of our most prestigious colleges and universities.
Finally, the most blatant fabrication was Stabile’s assertion that I gave him the “runaround” and refused to be interviewed for this article after approval was granted. Stabile was very devious as to why he wanted to interview me and refused to disclose how he had gotten my name. Nevertheless, following procedures I referred him to my principal, Dr. Cleo Davis Jr., to seek authorization for the interview. According to Stabile, he was unable to reach Davis. Subsequently, I called Davis, who suggested that I refer Stabile to Loretta Hardge in the DCPS Office of Public Communications to get this approval. Several days later, Stabile appeared in my office unannounced, stating that the approval for the interview had been granted. Since I had not been apprised of this and Stabile failed to provide me with any written authorization, I called Davis to verify this, and he, too, had not been informed of the authorization. So who granted the permission that Stabile referred to in the article? Did we give him the “runaround” or did he attempt to circumvent the procedure established by the system? Was he genuinely interested in hearing the other side of the story? I think not.
I feel that your paper has painted a very distorted picture of me and the counseling program at Woodson Senior High School. I think you owe us an apology and, by all means, a retraction.
H.D. Woodson Senior High School
Tom Stabile responds: I stand by the account Iyabo Akinadewo gave me. The article did not allege that Woodson’s counselors are untrained on financial aid matters nor did it state that Woodson’s program specifically has collapsed. I repeatedly informed Graham I wanted to speak to her about counseling at Woodson and the problems a student was having. When I met Graham in her office, I introduced myself, left a card, and told her the principal had not returned calls requesting permission for the interview. DCPS liaison Loretta Hardge granted me permission to speak with DCPS employees while researching this article. And DCPS does not require written authorization for its employees to speak with reporters.